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Digital Portrait Photography and Lighting: Take Memorable Shots Every Time by Sean McCormick, Catherine Jamieson

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Chapter 3. Lighting Primer

Lighting Primer

This chapter is going to examine ways to measure light, ways to control light, and ways to shape and modify light.

You can take perfectly fine portraits and remain blissfully ignorant about the intricacies of white balance or the difference between spot metering and matrix metering. But you can't do it consistently and deliberately, and those are the traits of a professional. Without controlling light you are hoping for a good result, perhaps generally aware of what that result will be, but still hoping. If you're surprised by a good result, then you're doing it wrong. You need to work yourself into a spot where you're surprised by a bad result!

Controlling light, in photographic terms, means controlling its direction, quality, and intensity. Even in 100 percent natural light the photographer does this by shifting the model, closing the curtains, or using one of the tools I talk about in this section. Using the right tools and processes helps photographers produce exactly the sort of portraits that they have planned. Though the benefits of this skill range from happier, repeat customers to a profitable business, the most important one is that you will simply be a better portrait photographer.

And when you consider the fact that sunlight has traveled 93 million miles to get here, it would be rude of us not to try to understand it.

Measuring Light

A light meter ...

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