Feathering the Light

Today's lesson is brought to you by the letter "F".  F is for feather. How does a feather pertain to photography?

Let me start at the beginning.

I have noticed that many photographers tend to aim their main light source directly at the subject - blasting them away with light. While this will do the job, it’s certainly not the most flattering way. In this Wednesday Lesson post, I will introduce the technique called “feathering the main light”.

Your light source, by nature, is typically brighter in the center and falls off toward the edges. Therefore, by aiming your light source directly at the subject, tends to create more specular highlights and can produce hot spots or can cause the highlights to become overexposed no matter how masterful you are at metering.

Instead, direct the light in front of your subject. You should be working with the edge of your light source and not the center. I will often turn my soft box horizontally and have most of the light pass in front of the subject, and just work with the light from the back edge of my soft box. By working with the feathered position of the main light, it gives me a softer, more flattering light on my subject.

Not only is feathering the light much more flattering, but it allows you to work easily with a reflector for fill light. When working with a large soft box and feathering, this box acts as both the main light and the fill light (a term referred to as wrap-around lighting). It also helps keep stray light off the background so I can control the brightness of the background through the use of a background light.

Below is a diagram of the lighting setup and the resulting photo.

The resulting image is VERY soft because of the lighting wrap and effective fill card.  The specular highlights were kept to a minimum making it a bit more pleasing despite the subject  ;)

Canon 135mm 2L - f5.6 @125th 100iso