Lighting Part 2: Side Lighting

I've been MIA here on the blog this past week and a half because we were traveling back and forth from Rock Hill and Lake Norman and good ol' Floyd, VA, mixing in work with family vacation. I'm excited to be jumping back in with our series on lighting this week and hopefully sharing some images from our time at the lake tomorrow with you guys!

(You can read Part 1 on back and rim lighting here )

Pretty much self-explanatory, side lighting is lighting that lights your subject from the side.It is great when you want to add depth to a portrait or emphasize texture or patterns. Side lit images tend to be more dramatic or moody in nature because of the play of light and shadows. It can also help your subject stand out from the background. (This is a self-portrait I took before our wedding. When you're a photographer and you're wedding budget is tight, you take your own portrait. Challenging, but fun and required a lot of running in a wedding dress!)

One problem that you may encounter when shooting side lit images is too much much contrast between your light and dark areas. You want to be careful that you're not over or under exposing your subject and losing details.  Although, I still think this portrait of Ethan is adorable, the highlights on the light side of his face are a little hot.

To help with this problem, you can either use a reflector or some fill flash. You don't need fancy equipment to reflect or diffuse light. I have been known to use white poster board laying around. In the images below, I used the curtains in the hotel to diffuse and soften the light hitting the subjects to give the images a softer feel and prevent harsh shadows.


If photographing a person in side light, you want to be sure to try and capture catchlights in their eyes otherwise their eyes and expression can come across as bland and lifeless. I love the personality I caught in Alana here, but catchlights in her eyes would have made this image pop. 

Catchlights are those little specs of light that you see reflected in a person's eyes as in this beautiful portrait of Melina. (I loved photographing their wedding by the way!) Again, using a reflector or fill flash can help you get that light in their eyes.

And that's pretty much it for side lighting! I'd love to feature your images next week before we dive into front lighting! Email me a side lit image that you've taken to!

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