Oval Faces

Today's post come from the book Sculpting with Light by Allison Earnest. It is available from Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

The oval-shaped face is perhaps the most symmetrical and easiest to photograph. If you look at magazines with female models you will see an abundance of oval face shapes, because they are quite photogenic and can be lit in all types of setups and patterns with great success. Typically, oval faces are thin, so they will not benefit from Rembrandt lighting or any other lighting setup designed to slim the face. Instead, broad lighting—especially with Paramount and loop-lighting setups—works beautifully with oval-faced subjects. Of course, your average client with an oval face may have imperfections, such as extra weight on the face or neck area. If your subject has any features that would look best diminished, place them in the shadow areas of the portrait.

Accenting Natural Beauty. The next series of images features Amanda Enloe, a model with no noticeable flaws. Therefore, these examples show how to accentuate a subject’s natural beauty and features by incorporating additional lights and reflector techniques.

The set of images here illustrates the effects of a 45-degree light setup that creates soft loop lighting. Starting with one main light, I progressively added light sources and reflectors to create classic portraits of Amanda.

In the first image, Amanda was illuminated with a single Hensel Integra 500 with a medium softbox placed at a 45-degree angle to the subject at camera left. An incident meter reading was made at the subject position with meter’s dome facing the main light. The recorded exposure of f/8 was set on the camera while the shutter speed was set at 1/250 second at ISO 100. The model was directed to tilt her head slightly and turn her nose away from the main light source to produce an open loop pattern on her face. The white background was lit with a 7-inch parabolic reflector attached to a monolight. The intensity of the light was adjusted to record at f/5.6 (one stop less exposure than the main light). This kept the background a denser shade of gray.

Without moving the main light or changing the exposure settings on the camera, I asked Amanda to turn her nose slightly toward the main light, which brought her left cheek out of shadow (second photo). A second monolight with a small softbox attached was placed behind the subject to camera right to slightly illuminate the background. The backlight exposure was adjusted to record half a stop brighter than the main light. To ensure the background received no additional illumination from the backlight, the softbox was “feathered” away from the background to retain the exposure and gray color of background. Finally, to add a slight fill and sparkle to Amanda’s eyes, a mini zebra California Sunbounce reflector was placed to camera right.

For the third photo, a third light (a monolight with a small strip light attached) was added to camera right at approximately a 75 degree angle to the subject. This added a beautiful specular highlight that accentuated Amanda’s left cheek. The exposure of the accent light was set three-quarters of a stop brighter than the main light. The highlight on the model’s right cheek was from the original backlight, which was feathered toward the model to create further specularity and dimension.

The beautiful high-fashion image seen below was created by turning off the background light and adding a reflector. A 4-foot mini zebra California Sunbounce reflector was positioned under Amanda’s face to brighten her eyes.

In the last photo, you can see the variety of lights and their placement used to create the series of images of Amanda. Without ever moving the main light, creating a series of different looks was as easy as adding a light or reflector, redirecting the subject, or merely turning off a light. Notice that Amanda is actually holding the reflector—by all means, don’t be afraid to ask your clients for help. They will almost always be excited to be included in the creative process.

*excerpted from the book Sculpting with Light


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