Portrait Lighting

There is a misconception in photography that you always need to have the sun behind you when shooting. I think this came from the early days of box brownies etc that had no flash or exposure compensation.

The reason it was generally stated this way was that all camera meters are calibrated to expose what is in the view finder at a set value (probably 18% grey). When you point the camera at a light source such as the sun or a bright window, the meter sees a lot of light and automatically shuts down the aperture resulting in dark photo. That's why all your selfies never work when the sun is behind you. If you take a lot of selfies you won't be reading this anyway!

 So, if you have the major light source behind you, a good exposure results and you'll probably get a nice photo. That's great if you're an amateur but pro photographers never want to hear the word nice. The problem is that the "nice lighting" is actually quite boring. It flattens out the photo giving no depth or interest. It's very good for documenting as it shows a good range of tones in colours.

The problem for most people is that they either don't have a good camera or they just use it on auto or program mode, which just sends it back the box brownie days. If you use a phone to do all your photography, then use the phone to call someone about buying a decent camera! There are heaps of little point and shoot cameras that have loads of manual options that allow you to take better photos.

When you have the camera and it's not on auto, it allows you to over-expose back -it subjects and achieve more interesting photos.

I have 3 photos below that illustrate what I am saying. All the photos were shot in the same room at the same time. The light source was daylight from South facing windows- the yummiest light because it's beautifully soft. The first pic has the light behind me, the second, I am shooting into the light and the third has the light at 90 degrees to the subject and camera.

At a glance the first pic appears to be the best, but look closer. See how flat and one dimensional it is? To me, there is more interest in the second and third pics, look at the subject's face and how the light or lack of it creates interest. My favourite is the last one, (possibly influenced by the cleaner background).

What do you think? Which do you prefer?