How to LIGHT and PHOTOGRAPH a Dramatic PORTRAIT (2023)


Sony A7R MarkIII -

Zeiss Batis 135 2.8 -

Phottix Nuada R3 -

Model: Nice Torrico
Makeup by: Gold Magtoto
Video: The Fifth P


Just something about me…
Since prior to my entry into the wedding industry, I have been considered to be one of the most reputable lighting specialists in the Philippines, conducting workshops nationwide and have been featured in various photography magazines. I was also a multi-awarded portrait and advertising photographer.

My expertise is in manipulating ambient and artificial light to create clean and classic photographs which naturally led me to the genre of portrait and wedding photography. Since then, I have shot numerous weddings locally and overseas exhibiting my signature style.

I am also a :
📸 Sony Ph Brand Ambassador
📷 Zeiss Camera Lens Ambassador
💡 MagMod Ph Endorser
🎒 Peak Design Ph Ambassador
✈️ International Phottix Pro Teamer


To do dramatic portraits anywhere, my underwear, hi guys.

This is Ziggy I'm, a portrait and wedding photographer from the Philippines and welcome to my channel.

This channel is about my photography life, wherein I talk about tips and tricks that I've learned through the years.

And sometimes a few gear reviews in this particular episode, we will be talking about how we create dramatic portrait.

Anywhere in case, you haven't subscribed to this channel.

Please do so all you have to do is click the subscribe button.

And while you're at it click, the notification bell so that you get notified every time, I, upload a new video and a simple follow in Instagram would be greatly appreciated at GG Alejandrina.

So before we get into the act or shoot I want to discuss with you guys, some of the things that we will be using for the shoot.

Well, the first one, the first light that we're going to use this is Protex, Nuada, r3 or r4.

Those are really nice LED lights, we're, actually using it.

Now while we're filming this that's, why I can't show you but it's, a really nice, circular round light that I can control the color temperature and the power, and it gives beautiful soft light at the same time we will be using this.

This is the four takes M 180.

This is a pocket monster, got a CRI of 9 of 97.

You can change the color temperature.

You can change the power and you'll be surprised at how powerful this light is.

You will see it later camera that I will be using will be the Sony a7 r3.

The lenses 85 85, 1.8 from Zeiss, the zeiss batis and the 135 2.8 from zeiss to the zeiss batis, 135 2.8.

So as I said, it's, basically creating dramatic portraits anywhere.

If you can see, this is a mess.

This is not how I studio normally looks like.

But since we're filming, all the gears here people are editing here.

And our model today nice is after you one of the one of the videographers that we decided to shoot.

So after the girlfriend of the main videographer, the guy behind the camp doesn't.

She look good.

She does obviously make up by what the one and only gold mug toto.

You gotta see her, and you gotta see her work in Instagram it's at lady, gold Mota, no I'm, just kidding.

It's at Goldsmiths toto, check out her work, fantastic fantastic makeup artist.


So what are we gonna do today? We're gonna shoot nice with just one light in this mess and to create a beautiful portrait? What are we gonna use this one? This is the Nevada rs3, but it's, basically, a portable, LED light that gives you control over power and color temperature.

And this one I think is rated at about 95 or 97 CRI, but that of course, I higher the CRI, the better, the color rendition will be.

If you notice we've got all ambient light on as of now we can actually turn it off, but we will see even if we don't, even if we don't turn off the ambient light, this light should be more than powerful enough to overpower it.


We go I'd set it at 5600.

So that when I set my camera it's gonna be at 5600, but I'll make the power let's say, 100% by doing that there's, actually a principle here.

If you get a bit technical there's, such a thing called the inverse square law, the inverse square law is that when the light is closer to the subject, the fall-off is after you faster.

So by having this light so close to the subject aside from making the light, even softer, it's gonna create such a dramatic fall-off that the contrast will be so high.

And we should be able to kill the background there so I'm using an a7, our Mark 3 and I have the 135 2.8 from zeiss it's, a zeiss by this 1 3 5 and I'll set my camera, of course, my white balance are set to 5600 and I'm shooting at ISO aperture priority.

My ISO will be spot-on auto.

And this is all I have to do come come.

Look at this look at this without even doing anything.

Come closer.

Look at the back of the camera.

This is what we're gonna be doing my exposure compensation is at zero.

So that's, basically what the camera sees correct.

But what we're gonna do is we're gonna expose for the highlights when we expose for the highlights all I have to do is do this to make exposure compensation.

And there you go, you've got your dramatic portrait.

So what I would do Simpson ice is actually a little bit thin nice, can you put your shoulder towards me? This one left shoulder pointed towards me a little bit more all right? Then now I can move my light the way I want it ice going here ice here here here chin down a little bit open your mouth, part, your mouth, a little bit.


The most important thing is you see the ice you should always be in the center.

The eyeball should always be in the center.

Here, notice look here looks very awkward.

Right? Look here looks very awkward.

Look here.

There looks a lot better.

So let's, try it look at that nice part your lips, a little bit very nice, and we can adjust accordingly.

Okay that dramatic portrait anywhere.

We can even play around with that.

Look, yeah, that's it.

Hold that.

Okay, part your lips, a little bit chin down nice, a little bit more intense, whatever you're looking at stir it up a little bit more intently, nice, open your mouth, a little bit you.

So just by moving the the light in the back we created that nice silhouette already of her right? But again, let's go back the dramatic portrait, maybe the shoulder towards me.

Yeah, ice here.

And then just put it flat on her face there like that to remove a little bit of contrast, nice, nice, nice, nice, nice, I, love it.

There we go.

And you notice I could fix my exposure, the way I wanted just by merely.

But by merely fixing my exposure, compensation don't, move your face, your eyes towards your right a little bit, not too much just a little there.

We go chin towards your left, a little nice chin up.

Look at that.

Okay that was shot with the no other our for what we'll do now turn this one off remove it, and we will shoot everything now with this tiny, M, 180, let's, turn off the light and see what we can do see here's.

The nice thing about shooting all these things you can control, you can control the light outside.

You can just turn this off.

So you don't necessarily have to shoot with that.

So okay, look at this.

When you look at this scene, look, how far the light is no matter how much spill you're getting all over your room.

So if I'm gonna shoot that now you're gonna get light even in the background, just like that.

So you'd want to get a little bit of drama.

How do you could throw now? The spell of the light just by moving closer? Move closer.

Now, see it's actually it's, not it's, not necessarily that soft, not the softest are four, but it's.

Good enough.

Can you go back to your profile again, give me your back with this.

Now, since can you go in a little bit closer, all of a suddent, you can even get the flare if you want to and again, just by exposure compensation.

But this light actually works well as a pair can I borrow this one.


So this one is set at a hundred percent.

And this one is set at fifteen percent.

So I'll probably put this one at about 70 percent and keep this one at 100.

So we're gonna do standard beauty light.

Look at that.

Hold it.

Please? Okay.

When you're doing standard beauty light.

The closer it is the better there.

We go see.

How does that look give me a little bit of angle smile? Yeah, relax in front of the camera, maybe the shoulder again, yeah, there we go.

Nice, very nice.

Look at that.

Nice, very nice after the I, find a lower light a little bit too strong.

So maybe we'll just do a ratio of one so to bring this down to fifty percent or maybe four, it is fine there.

You go nice.

Look at that.

Standard beauty, shot don't.

You just love it.

Look at that open your mouth, a little bit nice, very nice-nice chin, going here.

Good makeup.

Go love it you like it, it's nice.

So now we can play around a little bit more who wants to shoot see that's, how simple it is it's, a very very simple thing that you could play around with, oh, yeah, you can have my beauty light there.

You can have some beauty, light, they're, the perfect.


So again, please don't forget to subscribe to my channel, just click the subscribe button and hit the notification bell.

Don't, forget, please follow me on Instagram it's at at GG Alejandrina now, video.

But it suits tomorrow Oh animal, truth, Oh, guys, guys, enjoy the nineteen about learning how to light is that look everybody now can take fantastic photos because again, who knows about library? Dad, secret.


How to LIGHT and PHOTOGRAPH a Dramatic PORTRAIT? ›

Dramatic portraits often have one main light that's carefully controlled. There will be little or no fill light to diminish the strong shadows. The direction of the main light is also important. If the light is to the side, it is more likely to create a dramatic effect.

What type of lighting setup would create drama in a portrait? ›

Dramatic portraits often have one main light that's carefully controlled. There will be little or no fill light to diminish the strong shadows. The direction of the main light is also important. If the light is to the side, it is more likely to create a dramatic effect.

How do you shoot a stunning portrait? ›

10 Tips for Improving Your Portrait Photography
  1. Focus on the eyes. ...
  2. Use indirect light. ...
  3. Shoot at your subject's eye level. ...
  4. Practice with someone you know. ...
  5. Respect your subjects. ...
  6. Consider the setting. ...
  7. Aim for a shallow depth of field. ...
  8. Practice with different portrait lenses.
Jun 7, 2021

What lighting techniques create interesting expressive portraits? ›

Creative Portrait Lighting Techniques
  • Catch Lights. Catch lights are the highlights in the model's eyes. ...
  • Butterfly Lighting. ...
  • Clamshell Lighting. ...
  • Split Lighting. ...
  • Split Lighting with a Reflector Fill. ...
  • Loop Lighting. ...
  • Rembrandt Lighting. ...
  • Rim Lighting.

How does Annie Leibovitz use lighting? ›

Leibovitz uses ambient light and adds a small key light on her subject, usually in the direction the natural light is coming from. 2. Adding too many lights to a room will often take away what the natural light offers.

What type of light is most flattering when shooting portraits? ›

What is the best lighting for portrait photography? Outdoor portrait photography is usually done with either golden-hour lighting or cloudy, diffused lighting. Indoor photography can be done with window light, but studio portrait photographers often use diffused light to create a soft, flattering look.

What is three-point lighting for portraits? ›

In a nutshell, three-point lighting consists of using three different lights—a key light, rim light, and fill light—to illuminate a subject, while at the same time controlling where (and if) the shadows fall. It's usually done in-studio with lighting elements, but it can also be done outside.

What is the most flattering light angle? ›

The 45-Degree Standard. One of the most common photo light placements is at 45 degrees, meaning the light is placed at a 45-degree angle from your subject. At 45 degrees, you are most closely emulating what is referred to as Rembrandt lighting, which produces a natural and generally flattering light on your subject.

Where is the best lighting position for portrait photography? ›

It's most often placed right in front of your subject, at an angle, illuminating one section of them. These angles range from 15 to 70 degrees, with 45 being the most used by photographers and filmmakers. You can place your key light anywhere, and even bounce it off boards, reflectors or walls.

What is the rule of 1 3 in photography? ›

The rule of thirds is a composition guideline that places your subject in the left or right third of an image, leaving the other two thirds more open. While there are other forms of composition, the rule of thirds generally leads to compelling and well-composed shots.

What angle is best for portrait photo? ›

¾ face angle

The ¾ view is universally flattering for most portrait subjects. This angle is achieved by starting in the full-face angle and then asking the subject to turn their face slightly away from the camera. In this angle, only one of the ears is visible, but both eyes are equally visible.

What makes a good portrait photograph? ›

What Makes a Good Portrait Photo? A good portrait photo has an interesting composition that makes the subject stand out. It's well-balanced and offers enough negative space to flatter the subject and capture the viewer's attention. A good portrait focuses on the person's best features and appealingly presents them.

How do you get sharp eyes in portraits? ›

How To Get Sharp Eyes In A Portrait
  1. High Enough Shutter Speed. Before you go messing with your focus settings or making any drastic changes… ...
  2. Use A Smaller Aperture. ...
  3. Use Single Point Focus. ...
  4. Move Your Focus Point, Not The Camera. ...
  5. Light The Eyes. ...
  6. Don't Forget To Sharpen With Lightroom or Photoshop. ...
  7. Calibrate Your Lens.
Apr 1, 2019

What are the three light photography techniques? ›

The three main light sources for any 3-point lighting setup include a key, a fill, and a back light. These three sources can vary in terms of angle, intensity and even color, but the principle use for each of these three lights always remains the same.

How do you show emotions in a portrait? ›

Tips for Capturing Genuine Emotional Pictures
  1. Capture Your Subjects in a Familiar Environment. ...
  2. Give Minimal Direction and Do Not Intervene. ...
  3. Give Your Subjects Something to Do. ...
  4. Learn to Anticipate Important Moments. ...
  5. Focus on the Eyes. ...
  6. Keep on Shooting. ...
  7. Zoom in on Other Details. ...
  8. Use the Element of Surprise.
Apr 25, 2022

What is Rembrandt lighting for portraits? ›

At its most basic, Rembrandt lighting consists of a single light source placed on a 45 degree offset from the subject, about 5 feet away. Positioned roughly two feet higher than eye level, the light source is angled slightly downward and hits the side of the face that is farthest away from the camera.

What is butterfly lighting in photography? ›

Butterfly lighting is a lighting pattern used in portrait photography where the key light is placed above and pointing down on the subject's face. This creates a dramatic shadow under the nose and chin that looks like a butterfly.

How does Rembrandt use light in his paintings? ›

The key in Rembrandt lighting is creating the triangle or diamond shape of light underneath the eye. One side of the face is lit well from the main light source while the other side of the face uses the interaction of shadows and light, also known as chiaroscuro, to create this geometric form on the face.

What is the least flattering lighting? ›

Overhead lighting is the least flattering angle for people.

What is the most flattering focal length for portraits? ›

Generally speaking, the best focal length for portraits is 85mm. It's a flattering focal length because it doesn't distort the subject's facial features. You can use a 50mm lens on a crop-factor lens to get a similar effect.

What is butterfly lighting for portraits? ›

Butterfly lighting is a type of lighting pattern for studio portraiture. It is used for taking flattering, glamorous portrait photos. The lighting is soft on the face. It forms a butterfly-shaped shadow under the subject's nose, which is the source of the name.

What is the main light in a portrait situation called? ›

We often focus on posing and expressions (for good reason), but a basic understanding of common key light patterns can make all the difference in capturing quality portraits. A key light, simply put, is the main or primary light source used to capture an image.

What is the most flattering lighting setup? ›


Butterfly lighting (sometimes called “paramount lighting” which is a way less fun thing to call it) is one of the most flattering lighting setups for most faces, so don't even think about lighting me any other way. Your goal is to create a butterfly shape in the shadow under the nose.

What camera angle makes you look best? ›

The Angle of Your Body In A Photo

To look more photogenic, turn to the Universally Flattering Angle (the UFA): 45 degrees away from the camera. Our University of Southern California students have never tried doing the UFA before. But simply turning their bodies 45 degrees away from the camera transforms the photos.

Why do I look better from a low angle? ›

A low angle shot makes your subject look much bigger than they are. If you want them to look dominant in your image, then it's the best perspective to use. Low angles also make movement in your photo more dramatic. Since it makes legs look gigantic, anything your subject does also looks more intense.

Should light be in front or behind camera? ›

Light from in front, not behind

Webcams automatically record and adjust to the brightest source of light. And if that light is behind you, you're no longer the focus. Avoid being backlit by making sure you're facing toward, not away from, a window or another light source.

What is the golden triangle in photography? ›

We use Golden Triangle compositions to identify main subjects in food photography by using imaginary diagonal lines across the frame. The Golden Triangle consists of a diagonal line that goes from one corner to the opposite corner and two lines from the other two corners that meet that line at a 90-degree angle.

What is the rule of 9 in photography? ›

The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.

What is the golden ratio for photography? ›

What is the Golden Ratio in Photography? The golden ratio is a ratio of approximately 1.618 to 1. Artists have used this ratio for centuries to create works of art from paintings to architecture.

What is the most flattering way to pose for pictures? ›

Proper posture is important for taking a beautiful photo. Stand up straight, pull your shoulders back, and tuck your chin in slightly. This will help you look taller, thinner, and more confident.

What is the best shutter for portraits? ›

Most portrait work happens between 35 and 85 mm which is why we said 1/60th of a second is a good general minimum shutter speed, but the true minimum shutter speed depends on the focal length that you're shooting at and how shaky your hands are.

What is the best aperture for portrait mode? ›

Portrait photographers prefer wider apertures like f/2.8 or even f/4 — they can focus on the subject and blur the background.

What are the 5 elements for portrait? ›

In conclusion, there are 5 core elements that make up a good portrait: Location, lighting, composition, emotion and technical settings. When all 5 of these elements are well executed, a great portrait is created. If any of these elements comes up short, the quality of the portrait suffers.

What is the best color to wear for a portrait photo? ›

Solid and neutral colours always work well as the eye is used to seeing them and they have little chance of overwhelming the frame. Light neutral shades include white and cream, while dark ones include navy and black. Neutrals are timeless, non-competing and emotionless.

How do you get an extremely crisp and sharp photo? ›

10 Tips For Taking Sharp Photos With Your Camera
  1. Focus On The Subject. ...
  2. Use A Fast Shutter Speed. ...
  3. Use The Right ISO Setting. ...
  4. Find Your Lens' “Sweet Spot” ...
  5. Use Remote Shutter Release Or Timer. ...
  6. Use Mirror Lock-Up. ...
  7. Use Image Stabilization. ...
  8. Make Sure Your Lens Is Clean.

How do I look thinner in portraits? ›

How to Look Skinny and Thinner in Pictures
  1. Stick Your Chin Out.
  2. Avoid Patterns.
  3. Know How to Hold Your Body.
  4. Don't Place Your Arms at Your Side.
  5. Avoid Bulky Clothing.
  6. Stand/Sit Straight.
  7. Have Pictures Taken From Above.
  8. Hold Your Purse in Front of Your Body.

What are the 7 principles of photography? ›

There are 7 principles of Photography i.e. Pattern, Balance, Negative Space, Grouping, Closure, Colour and Light/Shadow. By applying these 7 principles, Photographers can create a complete image in the foundation of art theory.

What are the 6 qualities of light photography? ›

Angle, Size, Distance, Shape, Duration, and Color are each qualities of light that photographers can combine and manipulate these qualities in setting the look of their photograph for impact beyond just illumination.

What are the 4 types of lighting in photography? ›

As Sudhakaran mentions in the video, there are four types of light that every aspiring photographer should recognize: hard, soft, specular, and diffused. Differentiating between the four can be tough for the untrained eye.

What makes a portrait expressive? ›

What is an expressive portrait? It is a portrait that focuses on a theme or motif along with the human component of the portrait. It is using a variety of modern materials while retaining the classical structure of the face.

How do photographers capture emotion? ›

Using light accentuates emotions. Shoot low-key (dark tones) to promote mystery, fear, and the unknown. Shoot high-key (light tones) to promote comfort, happiness, and well-being. Know what you are after and work with light accordingly.

How do you create a mood in photography? ›

Key Thought: When photographing people, the most influential elements to establish mood are facial expression and body language. A critical component of mood in photography is your choice of the camera angle. The right camera angle can set a mood or ruin a feeling that you're trying to create.

How do you light moody portraits? ›

Lighting your subject from the front creates a less directional look than lighting from the side or the back, and the latter two are better suited to a dark and moody style. If you're shooting outdoors, the dim light of late evening into dusk is excellent for a dark and moody look.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rueben Jacobs

Last Updated: 01/12/2023

Views: 5339

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rueben Jacobs

Birthday: 1999-03-14

Address: 951 Caterina Walk, Schambergerside, CA 67667-0896

Phone: +6881806848632

Job: Internal Education Planner

Hobby: Candle making, Cabaret, Poi, Gambling, Rock climbing, Wood carving, Computer programming

Introduction: My name is Rueben Jacobs, I am a cooperative, beautiful, kind, comfortable, glamorous, open, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.