Creating Beauty Portraits With Hard Light

When you think of portraiture, you might think of large, diffused light. However, there are lots of applications of hard light in portraiture, with beauty being just one genre. In this video, watch as Lindsay Adler creates stunning portraits with harsh lighting.

I haven't done all that much beauty photography, but on the few occasions there has been a call for me to do so, I always go straight for hard light. Hard light is generally defined as undiffused, bright, direct light that creates harsh shadows on the subject. In the wrong context, it can be unflattering and jarring to look at, but when wielded correctly, it creates impactful and memorable results.

In this video, Lindsay Adler uses direct lighting on her model, including shots that lean into the harsh shadows more. By adding a gobo, the dark shadows can be used to create patterns. This can be something as simple as leaves or a window frame for a more natural feel, or something outlandish like the pattern Adler uses here which starts to resemble a tattoo. This can take a fairly plain image to a completely different place, leaving a more lasting impression on the view.

Do you use hard light often? If so, when are some of the instances you reach for that lighting style? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Rob Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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The Westcott Optical Spot is probably my favorite light modifier of the last 3 years. I kind of wish I had more than just 1.