Day 59: Analyzing Light

One of my favorite exercises is to look at an image and try to figure out how it was lit. I don’t remember who first told me to do this, but I owe them a big thank you. Today we are going to go through a few images and I’ll give you all of my “What to look for’s”

This first one is one of mine and pretty simple to evaluate. The front of them is well and evenly lit which means I probably used an on camera flash… then you can also see a small burst of light off to the side of the Father of the Bride’s head, so there was a second flash back there. It also is a very concentrated burst so you can see it was a bare bulb. If my eyes scan the edges of the frame for more concentrated areas of light, there isn’t any… so I’d stop there.

Ok girl, but you took that image so there isn’t much guessing there. Whatever, I’m just starting with this one because it’s easy! Let’s move on!

I don’t know who the photographer was for this image but it’s gorgeous! The light had to be very close to her to create such a fast fall off. It looks like it was one light facing her back and catching just slightly there on her nose. Maybe a beauty dish positioned closely. I would love to try to re-create this look and see how close I can get it!

This image is by Dmitriy Chursin and I can’t get over the glowing and clean skin on this subject. It’s so gorgeous. On an image like this, look at the shape and positioning of the catch light in the eyes. It looks like he used two strip lights, positioned in a V shape right in front of the subject. You can use this method to deconstruct photos any time you have a good view of the eyes. It can also be two softboxes, but the shape seems a little thin. I love this image… it’s so beautiful.

The next thing you can do is look up “Lighting Diagrams” on Pinterest. I would have never been able to conclude that the final image used four lights, but this allows you to see the creation of each step.

In this last image you can see the light falls so softly on her dress. You can also see it is high up and to the right. I’d also be willing to bet they have a reflector for the left side to fill in some light on the dress since the left side of her dress isn’t completely dark like her arm is. If I were going to try to re-create this image, I would have a softbox high up to the right pointed down just outside of the frame, and a reflector low on the left to fill in the dress details.

This was one of the first images I tried to deconstruct and re-create in 2012 when I knew nothing about flash. I knew I needed a fan and that was about it. I can see I tried to get part of her face/eye on one side a little darker than the other, but I can also see I failed to create some harder highlights on her shoulders, cheeks, chin, and forehead. While I didn’t “Nail it”, I did learn a huge amount about flash in the 20 minutes it took me to set up this image. That’s what it’s all about, friends, learning with intention. I promise, you’ll improve leaps and bounds by learning and creating from what you learned!


Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!¬† If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris