Another Side of Portraiture

There's more to the art than than I ever knew

Soon after meeting Shannon Heng for the first time, he told me "I see that you chew evenly. And you favor your right side. I can tell because that's how you part your hair. Am I right?"

I couldn't help but think that I'd just been Sherlocked. I was soon to learn that analyzing faces was an obsession of his. He later informed us that someone once said of him, "You eat, breathe, and shit faces."

Who is this guy, anyway?

I've been studying portraiture and studio lighting now informally for about a year. If I'm not online watching and learning how others do it, then I'm attending every workshop I can find on the subject to get some hands-on experience. Shannon was running the latest workshop on my educational itinerary.

Another bit of arcane wisdom: "Don't light the person, highlight the person."

I'd been to several workshops where the lighting was all set up and ready, or was set in place for us to adjust as needed. This time around was different. I took very few pictures as opposed to the three hundred or so over the course of the day. Because we were practicing the different portrait lighting patterns, achieving end results worthy of keeping, for me, was not an option.

And so I explored butterfly, loop, Rembrandt, split, and clamp lighting. Likely for the sake of time, Shannon didn't cover how broad and short lighting affected these other types.

But what he did cover in detail were different face types and how to showcase them the best with each lighting setup. This opened up a new world for me. I had no idea that I should be studying the face in depth. In the past, I'd only just hope for the best lighting to make my subject look good or alter things in post to bring about a more pleasing image.

Even a casual Google search doesn't readily produce what I'm talking about - the fact that there are oval faces, round faces, square faces, triangle faces, diamond faces, heart faces - and maybe one or two more I'm missing (but will update here soon). How the photographer chooses to light each of these face types could dramatically alter how the person looks, and for the worse if you applied, for example, butterfly lighting to someone who has an oval face - especially an oval face with a long nose. There are potentially multiple factors for any given subject to consider when lighting.

My gateway to in depth portraiture study, now wide open.

By the way, the model above has a square face. She favors her parted side for her face as well as for her chewing. She is lit here using loop lighting, which produces a loop around the nose and shadows underneath the nostrils.

If you see me looking at you for longer than what's comfortable, you'll now know why.

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