You can learn a lot about the lighting of an image by examining the size of the catchlights. A big catchlight indicates that the light source either was very close to the subject or was a very large light source. Similarly, a very small catchlight indicates a light source farther from the subject or a relatively small source of light. Typically, a large catchlight (close light source) creates soft light that illuminates a large amount of the subject. On the other hand, a small catchlight usually results from a more point-source of light, thus creating more contrast and harsher light.

Direction and Quality of Highlights

You need to analyze the number of highlight in an image, the direction they're coming from, and their quality.

Besides the main illumination, are there highlights on the shoulders or the hair? A highlight on the background? Other highlights on the face or body?

When you find all the highlights, take a moment to determine which direction the light source must be coming from by the way the light forms to the subject.

Finally, what are the qualities of this highlight? Is it soft and subtle, or is it bright and crisp? For example, if there is a highlight on the subject's left shoulder and side of face, determine how bright and crisp this highlight is and what direction the light must be coming from. In a studio environment, a crisp backlight highlight can indicate the use of barn doors, whereas a softer highlight might be a strip light. Both of these are common modifiers utilized for kicker light or backlight highlights. We'll discuss these modifiers more in Chapter 9, "Studio Light: Complete Control."

After you've examined the catchlights, take a look at the shadows to determine the source and direction of light. Which way are the shadows falling? Are they diffused or crisp? Are there shadows at all?

I often try to analyze the shadow created by the nose. If the shadow falls down and to the right, it means that the key light was up and to the left. If the shadow is long, it means that the light was high and close to the subject (casting a strong downward shadow). If the light is completely from the front, shadows may be nearly eliminated. Look at the shadow cast in Figure 7.11. You can tell by the direction of the shadow that the light was shot at a downward angle from the top left of the frame, thus creating a shadow toward the bottom right.

Direction a

Pej Modele

Figure 7.11

Because the shadow on the nose falls down and to the right, you know that the main light was above the subject to the left.

Figure 7.11

Because the shadow on the nose falls down and to the right, you know that the main light was above the subject to the left.

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