School of Hard Light

There are many different types of light.  Diffused, hard, soft, small, large, baffled, dappled, direct, indirect, warm, cool, singular, multi, even, uneven, feathered and so on.  Each type with it's own personality and set of rules.   One type is essential for one subject, while another will fail you and send you back to the drawing board in shame. Paul is a . . . very in shape guy.  I wanted to photograph the textures, shapes and tones of his body - black and white would be perfect for this.

For a subject like him, the type of light I used is crucial.

Soft diffused light is very. . . well, soft.  It is used to hide wrinkles, bumps and other imperfections because the light softens the lines between highlight and shadow making what we want to ignore, less noticeable.  e.g. Light from a large window, or a 7' softbox.

It's perfect for babies, bridals and beauty shots, but not for a well toned guy.  For that you want hard, direct light.  You need to show every bump, ripple and bulge.  Shadows are your friend, don't soften them.

I set Paul up under a bulb, with no diffusion, fitted with a 6" reflector to output the maximum amount of light down onto him.  I then used two more to outline and separate his form from the black background.


This next one I call "Ascension". This shot of one of my all-time favorites.  The light holds him, carrying him up out of the dark depths. His torso, arms and trim lights lead the viewer's eye upwards and away from the negative space.