Contouring has become a popular technique that women use to give shape and enhance facial structure by using makeup. Since most men aren’t willing to use makeup during portrait shoots, I’ve devised a way for photographers to achieve the same results simply by using lighting techniques.
The information in this article specifically covers round and oval faces, so if you’re interested in learning more about how to enhance every male face shape, you’ll have to watch me LIVE on creativeLIVE, November 24th and 25th.
A round face is one that is almost equal in width to height and doesn’t have a strong pronounced jawline. Oval faces are just round faces that are about 2/3 as long as they are wide; also without a pronounced jawline. Since most people with rounder faces have fuller cheeks and cheekbones, you want to focus on highlighting their foreheads and chins, while darkening their cheeks. This leads your eye to the core elements of a face: the eyes, nose, lips and brow.
Below are three images, all taken with a Canon 5D Mark III and Sigma 150mm 2.8 Macro Lens. Each of these images are unedited and straight out of camera for the purposes of showcasing the way contouring leads the eye. By using two V-Flats on either side of my subject I was able to reduce the amount of highlights on his cheeks, thus causing you to focus on his eyes, nose, lips and brow. When you don't have enough time dedicated to editing, being able to contour in-camera makes your life simpler.
Below are the same three photos showing exactly where the fall-off of light ends, and how shadows actually help accentuate my subject’s features.
Here are the three lighting setups side by side:
I found that this technique is a great way to light subjects who are a little self-conscious about their fuller faces and still be able to use the soft lighting that parabolic umbrellas and softboxes offer. The contouring technique can also be enhanced in post-production if you feel that you need to shape your subject’s face even further. I'd have to credit the makeup artists who I generally work with for the idea, you guys have taught me so much!
If you're interested in seeing the final image, look no further. And if you're interested in seeing more of my work, you can find that on my Facebook page.
Correction: Westcott Zeppelin