Portraiture Masterclass - AP photographer Andrew Sydenham demonstrates to three readers how a simple arrangement of lights can produce effective portrait photography. Oliver Atwell joins them

Three-Point Lighting

Photo by Colin Roberts

Andrew suggests that if anyone is looking to create a classic high-key shot they will need to introduce another light source. The method that Andrew is referring to is called three-point lighting, where three lamps (or in this case two lamps and a reflector) are employed to illuminate the subject.

Photo by Maria Mil

‘You’ll have three sources of light,’ says Andrew, ‘comprising a key light, a fill light and a back light (otherwise known as a rim light). The key light is the principal source of illumination and will shine directly on your subject. The fill light (our reflector) will balance the key light and fill in the darker parts of the subject. The back light will then shine on the subject from behind, helping to separate your model from the background and provide some definition. It’s a classic set-up and one you’ll no doubt use again if you decide to pursue portrait photography seriously. It’s a very commercial way of working, but it’s a simple method that can help you understand lighting.’


Photo by Andrew Sydenham

On a final high-key note, Andrew gives a quick introduction to a handy little item called a snoot. ‘A snoot is an attachment that can work in either high- or low-key images,’ says Andrew.

Photo by Andrew Sydenham

‘It’s a conical-shaped object that attaches to the front of your light and narrows down the beam so that it lands on a concentrated area. Look at the image of the flowers and see how the light falls on the subject. If you want to illuminate just one area, such as the face, it’s a great tool. It’s also easy to make out of thick black card.’

  1. 1. Portraiture
  2. 2. Breaking it down
  3. 3. Lenses and Depth of Field
  4. 4. High-key lighting
  5. 5. Reflectors
  6. 6. Three-Point Lighting
  7. 7. Low-key Lighting
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