Robin Michals | COMD 1340 Photography 1

Week 10 – Portraits with two and three lights

For the next class

On April 17th, we will go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. You will need train fare but admission is free for us as a school group. Be prepared to be outside and waking for 1.5 hours.

Review Portrait Lighting Styles


Mamadi Doumbouya

Focal Length

The focal length of a lens is defined as the distance in mm from the optical center of the lens to the the sensor when the lens is focused on infinity. This varies on the camera and the lens.

Focal length controls: Magnification and angle of view

Focal length is described as short, normal ie close to human vision, or long.

Wide Angle Distortion-created when using a wide-angle lens AND the camera is very close to the subject. The object close to the lens appears abnormally large relative to more distant objects, and distant objects appear abnormally small and hence more distant – distances are extended. 

Focal length and proximity to the camera affect how a person’s face looks in a photograph. A wide focal length and proximity between the subject and the camera create wide angle distortion and will distort a person’s features.

Think about selfie sticks. What are they for but to get the camera away from your face? This makes the photograph look more complimentary to the subject. This is really important with a cameraphone because it has a wide angle lens. The center of the lens and the sensor cannot be very far apart given the thin design of cellphones.

When working with a crop-frame sensor, approximately 65 mm will be the most flattering to your subject.


  There are three basic types of lights (these are the physical lights not portrait lighting styles):

  1. The Main or Key Light-This light provides the brightest illumination and casts the shadows

2. The Fill Light-this light brightens the shadows. It can be a reflector or an actual light.

This video shows how to use a reflector as the fill light.

3. The Separation Light or Background Light-creates separation between the subject and the background. This light can be aimed at the background or it can be aimed at the subject. If the later, it would be called a hair light. If accenting the edge of the face or shoulders, this light would be called a rim light or a kicker.

3-point Lighting

– standard lighting for portraits, video and film, uses all three: a main light, a fill light and a background light.

Lab Exercise

Lab 9: Two and Three Light Portraits


HW 8: Final Project Statement and Mood Board

Class Schedule:

April 17-Brooklyn Botanic Garden

April 24-Spring Break

May 1-Painting with Light

Week 9 – Portrait Lighting Styles


Test Yourself: Which Faces Were Made by A.I.?

Portrait Poses

There are three basic positions for someone’s head and face in a portrait.

  1. Front view or face forward
  2. 3/4 view
  3. Profile

Portrait Lighting Styles

There are a 5 basic lighting styles for portrait photography. Each style is defined by how light falls on the face.

When the subject’s whole face is towards the camera, there are three basic lighting styles.

  1. Rembrandt Light – the model is face forward, main light is at 45 degrees and casts a light on the opposite side of the face to form a triangle on the cheek.

Rembrandt Lighting
Michael B. Jordan. Photographer: Peggy Sirota

2. Butterfly Light, Clamshell or beauty or glamour light-model is face forward, front light.

Tyra Banks. Photographer: Matthew Jordan Smith

3. Split Light-model is face forward, the main light is at 90 degrees to the camera and falls on one side of the face. 

Lewis Wickes Hine (U.S.A., 1874–1940), One of the spinners in Whitnel Cotton Mfg. Co. N.C. December 1908.

When the subject is in 3/4 view, there are two basic lighting styles.

4. Broad Light-light falls on the side of the face with the visible ear. Good for controlling the reflections on glasses.

Danny Devito. Photographer: Gregory Heisler.

5. Short Light-the light falls on the side of the face with the features. (Not on the side with the visible ear.)

Aretha Franklin. Photographer: Matthew Jordan Smith

Both of these are examples of short light. Here the light is slightly behind the subject.

Chadwick Boseman. Photographer: Caitlin Cronenburg

Left: Photographer-Yousef Karsh, Winston Churchill, 1941

Right: Photographer-Nadav Kandar, Donald Trump, 2016

Yousef Karsh

Nadav Kandar

Lab 8

Portrait Lighting Styles

Homework Assignment

HW 7: Window Light Portraits

Week 8 – Shutter Speed: Freezing and Blurring Motion

CUNY Photo Challenge

Enter your best image! Get extra credit. Entries due March 28th.


Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed is the length of time that the sensor is exposed to light to create the photograph. It is measured in seconds or fractions of a second.

The full stops for shutter speed are: 30”, 15”, 8”, 4”, 2”, 1”, . sec, ., 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000, 1/4000, 1/8000

Doubling the time, doubles the amount of light that reaches the sensor.

When shooting with a cameraphone and the Lightroom Photoshop app, you can set the shutter speed of your cameraphone between 1/10,000 and 1/4 sec.

A good rule of thumb when shooting with a camera is: Any shutter speeds slower then 1/60 require the use of a tripod. When shooting with a cameraphone, you will need a tripod to shoot at 1/15 or slower.


Capturing Motion

Your choice of shutter speed will change the way motion is captured in the photograph.

Frozen Motion-Motion is stopped and captured in the frame with a fast shutter speed.


World Sports Photography Awards Aquatic winners

World Sports Photography Awards Basketball

Maria Baranova: Performance


The exact moment that you take the picture is as important as how long the shutter speed is. This is often called:

The Decisive Moment: A term coined by Cartier Bresson- “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.”

Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris. 1932
Photographer: Henri Cartier-Bresson

How to freeze motion:

  • Use a shutter speed of 1/ 500, 1/1000 or faster.
  • Use the AF mode – AI Servo.

Auto Focus

AF Area Selection Mode: facial recognition, single point Spot AF, Single Point AF, AF Point Expansion, Zone AF, Large Zone AF.

One Shot is for still subjects. AI Servo is for moving subjects.

Drive Mode

For really fast motion, try a burst mode either high or low continuous.

Blurred Motion

Moving elements blur with a longer shutter speed.


Lee-Ann Olwage, The Big Forget

Matthew Pillsbury, Sanctuary

How to blur motion:

  • Use a slower shutter speed – 1/4 sec to 30″ or even longer
  • Direction-if the subject moves parallel to the picture plane there is more visible movement than if the subject moves toward or away from the camera.
  • Focal length-a subject will appear blurrier when photographed with a telephoto lens than when photographed with a wide-angle lens.

Lab Exercise

Lab 7: Freezing and blurring motion

Homework Assignment

HW 6: Freezing Motion

Class Schedule

April 3: Aperture and Depth of Field: Brooklyn Botanic Garden

April 10: Portraits

April 17: Portrait w 2 and 3 lights

Week 7 – Midterm – Critique Guidelines

Critique Etiquette

  1. Respect the presenter. Give them your full attention.
  2. Ask questions about your colleague’s photography. This is not the time to ask questions about your personal concerns.
  3. Start with the positive when you comment on your colleague’s works. Use the terms below that we have learned this semester.
  4. Be generous. Offer your thoughts. Your opinion and judgements are important. Do not leave the work of giving feedback to the others in the class.


Framing: How the frame brings together the elements inside the rectangle juxtaposing them, creating relationships between them

Types of shots: how much information is in the frame

  • a long shot
  • a medium shot
  • a close up
  • an extreme close up.

Frame within a frame – use elements in the frame to enclose the main subject and draw attention to it. A frame within a frame can be a window or door or it can be items in the foreground such as branches.

Angle of View:  describes the camera position in relationship to the subject. The angle of view may be: 

  • a worm’s-eye view
  • a low-angle
  • eye-level
  • a high-angle
  • a bird’s-eye or aerial or overhead view
  • an oblique angle.

Rule of Thirds – Instead of placing the main subject in the center of the frame, divide the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically and place the main subject at one of these intersections.

Symmetry-fold the image in half and the two sides are equivalent

Fill the Frame –  (get closer) – do not leave empty areas that do not add to the composition and plan to crop in later.

Diagonals – Sloping lines

Leading Lines – lines in the photograph that lead the eye to the main subject

Perspective-the creation of the feeling of a 3D space on a 2D surface usually with converging lines or diminishing scale

Patterns – repeated elements. Break the pattern for visual interest

Figure to Ground -the relationship between the subject and the background sometimes described as negative and positive space.

Diffused light – light that comes from many directions and creates soft shadows

Direct light– light that come from one direction and creates hard shadows

Contrast: The measure of difference between bright areas (highlights) and dark areas (shadows) in a photo

High contrast : Large difference between highlights and shadows. Mostly lights and darks without many mid tones        

Low contrast :  Little difference between lights and darks. Mostly mid tones.

High Key– most tones are light

Low Key – most tones are dark


HW 5: Reflections

Class Schedule

March 27: Shutter Speed and Motion, McLaughlin Park (across the street)

April 3: Aperture and Depth of Field: Brooklyn Botanic Garden

April 10: Portraits

Week 6 – Digital Darkroom – Global Corrections


Aspect Ratio-the proportion of the width of the image to the height of a 2D image

Clipping-the intensity of the light falls outside of what can be recorded by the camera and there is a loss of detail.

Color Profile-the data for a digital device, such as a printer or monitor, which describes its gamut, or range of colors. Used to match the gamut from one device to another.

Exif Data-information stored by the camera in the file.

Gamut-range of colors

Histogram- a graphic representation of the tones in an image. A spike of data on the left side indicates underexposure, on the right overexposure.

Neutral Value-RGB values are equal or gray

Non-destructive Editing-adjust the image without overwriting the original image data. Instructions are written to a sidecar file that tells the software how to interpret the image.

White Balance-the setting that adjusts for the color temperature of the light and that will make a white object appear white or a gray object a neutral value

Global Corrections

Global corrections adjust the entire file. In the Lightroom CC, it includes the controls under Light, Color and Effects. In Lightroom classic, this includes everything in the basic panel: White balance, Tone and Presence.

Exposure Choices

Both exposures are “right.” It depends on the feeling and mood you want to create.

When to Use Auto

Auto is a great feature of Lightroom. If the tones in an image will more or less average out to a medium gray, Auto will give you a good result. If the tones in the image do not average out to a medium gray, Auto is useless.

Using the Histogram

Example file:

The histogram is a graphic representation of the tones in the photograph. It is a guide to exposure decisions. Most images look best when there is a full range of tones from black to white in the image. But there are no iron clad rules.

To access the histogram in Lightroom, from the keyboard select: Command 0

Or get it from the three dots on the right menu bar.

From the top of the histogram, there is a triangular button. Toggle it to turn on/off show clipping.

To maximize the the tonal range, adjust a photo to have some tones that are totally black and totally white but only a few so that you don’t lose detail in either the shadows or the highlights.

Looking at the histogram, we can see that there is not a true black or white. To raise the contrast of the image and use the full tonal range, use the following adjustments:

  • Select show clipping on the top left of the histogram. Adjust the blacks slider to the left until you see bright blue flecks on your image.
  • Select show clipping on the top right of the histogram. Adjust the whites slider to the right until you see bright red flecks on your image.

Most images improve with:

  • shadows slider to +50 add detail to the dark areas
  • the highlights slider brought to the left to bring detail into the highlights.

In this photo of the pier in Coney Island, the histogram shows that is underexposed. But we also know that it is an evening scene and that there is nothing in the photo that should be bright white.

Lightroom Workflow:

  1. Optics: enable lens correction. If there is architecture or a strong horizon line, geometry>upright>auto
  2. Crop.
  3. Color. Adjust the white balance if necessary.
  4. Light
    a. Exposure slider-use to adjust the overall tonality
    b. Set black point using show clipping
    c. Set white point using show clipping
    d. Use shadows slider to brighten mid tones.
  5. Effects – Adjust clarity (mid tone contrast)
  6. App: color – Adjust vibrance and or saturation
  7. Detail panel – Sharpen-amount at least 50

Lightroom CC Resource

Lightroom Classic Resource

A few tips for Lightroom Mobile:

  1. To access the histogram, tap on the image with two fingers. If you can’t really see the histogram background, brighten the display.
  2. To see the image before your corrections, press on the image.

Lab Exercise

Lab 6: Global Corrections


Midterm Project

Week 5 – Exposure

Quiz 1

Next week, March 13th, the class will start with a quiz. The quiz will have three questions on the following topics all from the OpenLab topics pages: Exposure, Light-quality and direction, contrast, studio basics: continuous lights vs strobes, Flood lights vs spot lights, composition including angles of view, framing, rule of thirds, leading lines, a frame within a frame, symmetry, figure to ground and a compare and contrast of two photos that will be graded on your use of the vocabulary from the class.


Light Quality

Light is either direct or diffused.

Direct light: the light strikes the subject from one angle and creates sharp shadows. Sunlight is an example of direct light.

Graduation, New York. 1949
Photographer: Roy DeCarava

Diffused Light: the light hits the subject from many angles and creates soft shadows. The light is diffused on an overcast day or in the shade.

Mother and daughter pausing in the ruins, which was still their home. Claremont Parkway. 1976-82.
Photographer: Mel Rosenthal

Measuring the Light

Exposure is the amount of light that comes into the camera to create the photograph.

Exposure is made up of three components:

  1. ISO-Sensitivity to light.
  2. Shutter Speed-the length of time that the camera’s shutter is open during the exposure.
  3. Aperture-how wide the cameras lens opens to allow the light to come in.

All three are measured in stops. The different between one full stop and the next is it either doubles or reduces by 1/2 the amount of light. This is true of ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

Exposure Basics

When hand holding the camera – as opposed to using a tripod – set the shutter speed fast enough to account for your motion as a living breathing moving person.

Generally, 1/125 is fast enough for this. It will not stop the motion of a moving subject but it will keep your motion from adding a bit of softening motion blur to your entire photo.

ISO 100 is best quality. Higher ISOs introduce noise but up to ISO 1600 you are unlikely to see much noise. Raise the ISO instead of making the shutter speed longer than 1/125.

How your Camera Meter Works

Acronym: TTL – Through the Lens

The meter in your camera is a reflected-light meter.

A reflected light meter averages the tones in the scene and selects the aperture and shutter speed values that will make the whole scene medium gray.

Watch from :45 to 1:34 for an explanation of how your camera meter works.

What your camera meter "sees"
What your camera meter “sees” From Photography, 10th Edition, Stone, London, Upton, P. 70


There are certain predictable situations that will fool your meter.

  1. Backlight – a common example is a person against a window or against the sky. Add exposure to get the right exposure for the main subject and allow the background to be overexposed.

2. Landscapes with sky. The sky is brighter than the ground and to get a good exposure of the land portion of your photo, often you need to over expose the sky.

Using Exposure for Creative Effect

Sometimes, you don’t want the tones in your image to average out to a medium gray. You want to tones to be low key-mostly dark or high key-mostly light.

Both exposures are “right.” It depends on the feeling and mood you want to create.

A quick way to control exposure

With a camera: Use Exposure Compensation set to plus to increase the light and set to minus to decrease the light.

Exposure compensation scale
Exposure compensation scale set here to minus 1.3

Exposure Compensation-a way to force the camera to make an exposure either lighter or darker than the meter reading. Good for backlight or extremes of light and dark.

With a cameraphone: Touch the area where the main subject is and then drag the little sun icon up or down to increase or decrease the overall exposure.

Lab Exercises

Lab 5: The Oculus and Brookfield Place

Homework Due Next Class

Midterm Project

Upcoming Schedule

March 13 – Quiz 1, Midterm Project Support, Lightroom and Global Corrections

March 20- Midterm Presentations

March 27 – Shutter Speed

Week 4: Lighting for Mood

CUNY Photo Challenge

Submit today! This month’s submission is due Feb 28th.

Email me the screen shot of your submission for 1 point of extra credit.


Lighting Quality

Diffused– light hits the subject from all directions and the shadows are soft

Direct– light hits the subject from one angle and the shadows are crisp with sharp edges

Lighting Direction

Front light – light comes from near the camera position.

Side light – light come from 90 degrees to the camera position.

Back light – light comes from behind the subject and aims towards the camera.


Contrast: The measure of difference between bright areas (highlights) and dark areas (shadows) in a photo

High contrast : Large difference between highlights and shadows. Mostly lights and darks without many mid tones  

Low contrast :  Little difference between lights and darks. Mostly mid tones.




Other terms to know

Ambient Light-The light that is already there sometimes called available light

Continuous Lights-Always on, may be incandescent, halogen, fluorescent, LED

Strobe Lights – lights that fire when the exposure is made

Strobes have two bulbs:

  • the modeling light which helps you see where the light will fall
  • the flash bulb that fires when you press the shutter release

A trigger on the camera uses radio waves to tell the receiver to fire the light. The power pack stores the power used to make the exposure.


In studio photography, we put modifiers on the flash heads to change the quality of the lights. Two basic categories of modifiers are:

  1. Softboxes- these spread and diffuse the light. The light hits the subject from many directions making the shadows softer.
  2. Grids – these concentrate and focus the light. The light hits the subject from one direction making the light harsher and the shadows sharper.


Lab 4: Stuffed Animals


HW 4: Something Near and Something Far

Week 3 – Light Quality and Direction

Next week

Bring a small stuffed animal approximately 6 to 9 in high to photograph.

Light Quality

Direct light or hard light – the rays of light are nearly parallel and strike the subject from one direction creating hard edged dark shadows with little detail.
Examples: a spotlight, sun on a clear day, or a bare flash

Diffused light or soft light– the rays of light are scattered and coming from many directions. It appears even and produces indistinct shadows. Examples: overcast daylight, a light covered with tracing paper or other translucent material.

Direct Light and Direction

Front light comes from in front of subject from the camera position and the shadows fall behind the subject not concealing any details.

Side Light comes from 90 degrees to the camera. It adds dimension and texture to the subject.

Back light – light comes from behind the subject and aims towards the camera.


Lab 3: Lighting Direction


Hw 3: The Power of Ten

Class Schedule

Feb 21: Please bring a small stuffed animal

Feb 28 – No class. CUNY Monday.

March 6: Field Trip to the Oculus and Lower Manhattan

Week 2 – Composition: The Frame

The Frame

Cropping: how much information is in the frame

  • a long shot

Toktogul Reservoir, Kyrgyzstan. 2021. Photographer: Anush Babajanyan

  • a medium shot

Photographer: Ralph Pace

  • a close up

Fashion Week, New York. 2023. Photographer: Dina Livitsky

  • an extreme close up

Photographer: Aaron Siskind

Angle of View:  describes the camera position in relationship to the subject. The angle of view may be:

  • a worm’s-eye view
  • a low-angle
  • Eye-level

Photo by Mel D. Cole

  • a high-angle
  • a bird’s-eye or aerial or overhead view
  • oblique angle
Tram on Sukharevsky Boulevard, 1928. Alexander Rodchenko.

Angle of View Examples By Alexander Rodchenko

Lab: Week 2 – Composition

HW 2: Hula Hoops

Week 1 – Photographic Composition

Next Week

Bring in a single shoe to photograph. it can be anything from a worn flip flip to the latest Jordans. You will photograph it in class.

Compositional Principals

  1. Rule of Thirds – Instead of placing the main subject in the center of the frame, divide the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically and place the main subject at one of these intersections.

Graduation, 1949. Harlem, NY. Photographer: Roy De Carava

Dehli, India. Photographer: Rohit Vohra

2. Leading Lines – lines in the photograph that lead the eye to the main subject

Whitnel Cotton Mfg. Co. N.C. December 1908. Photographer: Lewis Hine

3. Diagonals – Sloping lines

THAILAND. Bangkok. 2005. Photographer: Steve McCurry

4. Frame within a frame

Photographer: Eugene Smith

5. Figure to Ground -the relationship between the subject and the background sometimes described as negative and positive space.

Delhi, India. Photographer: Rohit Vohra

6. Fill the Frame – get closer. Never plan to crop later.

Mother. 1924. Photographer: Alexander Rodchenko

7. Patterns – repeated elements. Break the pattern for visual interest

Bed-Stuy. Photographer: George Steinmetz

8. Symmetry – If you fold the image in half the two haves are very similar and have equal visual weight.

From “A House is not a Home”, Photographer: Laila Annmarie Stevens


Advice from Rohit Vohra

In-class Lab Exercise

Lab 1 – Composition


HW1 – Composition

HW 8: Final Project and Mood Board

Due April 17, 12 pm, Noon. 4 pts.

A final project proposal of 300 words min plus a gallery of images for inspiration otherwise known as a mood board.

The goal of the Final Project is to create a series of 10 related images on a theme.

You may choose to do either:

A series of portraits (not 10 pictures of 1 person but 10 pictures of 10 people) OR

A portrait of a neighborhood

OR another theme that you are passionate about: dogs, skateboarders, basketball players, street fashion to name a few possibilities.

Decide which assignment(s) you most enjoyed. What are you most interested in? Then consider: do you have people to work with? What is your schedule like and what is practical?

Final Project statement: Describe your project. What is your theme? What is the story you want to tell? What is the subject matter? Where will you shoot and when will you shoot? What kinds of techniques will you use?

Find a minimum of 6 images by 6 different photographers that show what you want your project to look like. Put them in a gallery in the post with your final project statement.

Category on OpenLab: Final Project Statement

Grading Rubric

Deliverables and dates:

Due April 17 – a 300 word final project statement posted to Openlab with “a mood board”

Due May 8: Shoot 1 – minimum of 40 images in an album on Flickr

Due May 15: Shoot 2 – minimum of 40 images in an album on Flickr

Due May 22: Shoot 3 -minimum of 40 images in an album on Flickr PLUS

  • final 10 images selected, adjusted in Lightroom, and posted to an album on Flickr
  • a presentation to the class of the final images.

Total albums: 4 – 3 shoots of a minimum of 40 photos and a final album of 10 edited and toned images


Kalia Cruz


Xavier Vasquez


Enson Zhou

David Moya


Ifetayo Forrest


HW 7: Window Light Portraits

Due April 10, 12 pm, Noon. 4 pts.

Create a series of 30 portraits of at least 3 different subjects using window light or outdoor diffused light.

For each subject, shoot some in front view, some in three quarter view and some in profile.

Use the window as front light, side light and back light. When you are working with a window, you can’t move the light source so you and the subject must move.

You should be near or next to a window during the day. 

The window can be in the photo or you can just use the light from the window.

Pay attention what is in the frame and make sure the background adds to the photo and is not distracting.

Your photos should use light and expression to be expressive. No props. If you have curtains or venetian blinds, you may use them as elements in the photos.

Experiment with different expressions and gestures and different framing (how much of your subject is in the frame.)

Upload the 30 photos to OpenLab and put them in an album. Send your best 3 – the best of each subject- to the class group.

Examples from previous semesters

Lab 8: One-Light Portrait Styles

Set up:

  • The subject should be at least 4 or 5 feet in front of the backdrop to avoid casting a shadow.
  • Use 65mm focal length when you are using a camera with a cropped frame sensor, 85 mm for a full-frame sensor
  • Focus on the subject’s eyes.

The key or main light is the light that casts the shadows.

Working with just the key light:

Front view:

Photograph your subject with:

  • Rembrandt light – the light is at a 45 degree angle to the subject. Look for the key triangle -a triangle of light on the darker side of the face to position the light.

    Do not place the light too high because this will cause shadows around the subject’s eye sockets.
  • Split light – the light is at a 90 degree angle to the subject. One side of the face is dark but light does fall on the other side.
  • Front light (butterfly) – Light falls on the subject from the camera position.


Three-quarter view:

  • The model’s face is turned to a 45 degree angle from the camera.

Photograph your subject with:

  • broad lighting by placing the light on the side of the visible ear. There will be a broad highlight on the subject’s hair. This works for subjects wearing glasses.
  • short lighting by placing the light on the side of the invisible ear. 


The model turns their face at a 90 degree angle to the camera. Place light like a side light. The subject faces the light BEING VERY CAREFUL NOT TO LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE LIGHT. 

Put your 20 best photos into an album on Flickr. Make sure to represent each one of these lighting styles. Send your 2 best to the class group.

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