Annabel Williams Portraiture Masterclass

Lighting and Composition


Working
in a location such as a city can mean that the photographer is
overwhelmed by the visual clutter that surrounds them. This can often
make it difficult to identify what will make an interesting location for
their subject. One of the best ways to approach this problem is to see
your model and their surroundings as a simple arrangement of shapes.


photo by Jennifer Peel

‘Taking
these kinds of images is a lot easier if you can begin to see
everything in graphic terms,’ says Annabel. ‘Everything you see is just a
shape, from the models and their clothes to the environment they find
themselves posing in. The way those shapes interact with each other is
going to determine your composition. Everything in the street is a
series of shapes and lines, and you need to fit the shape of the person
in with the background. Move the person around until their shape looks
good, and don’t be afraid to move them back and forwards until you see
what works.

For Annabel, when it comes to the methods of lighting a subject, there’s no competition – natural light wins every time.’

‘I
really feel that flash can often ruin a good picture and studio
lighting can be quite tedious to work with,’ says Annabel. ‘When you’re
in a studio, you’re very restricted to the kinds of backgrounds that you
can use and the types of things you can do with your model. Therefore,
working on location with natural light will always be my preferred
method. When you’re out on location, you begin to see how different
intensities of light will work with all the shapes we just discussed.
You can treat the sun as a natural spotlight. It’s just that rather than
moving your light, you’re moving your subject.’

Finding the
right light for your subject can often be a difficult task. Sometimes it
can be too harsh and at other times completely flat. The trick is to
look for areas that offer something a little more flattering.

‘There
are a huge number of different lighting conditions in a street
location,’ says Annabel. ‘Standing in direct sunlight works well for
flawless models, but is too harsh for the rest of us mere mortals and
will highlight flaws. However, if you can find some sort of cover, such
as a doorway, then that will work a lot better as it will soften the
light slightly and give a much more even exposure. Also, areas like that
can make for really excellent backgrounds.’

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Camera Settings
  3. 3. The Subjects
  4. 4. Lighting and Composition
  5. 5. Location and Background
  6. 6.
  7. 7. Readers' Images
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