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Analyzing Light

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Jul 05

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Analyzing Light

In today’s episode we breakdown the lighting of three images by Nick Onken, Anthony Mandler, and Jill Greenberg.

Episode Timeline

  • 00:00 – 01:15 – Introduction and new contest announced
  • 01:15 – 03:42 – Analyzing light of an image by Nick Onken
  • 03:42 – 07:17 – Analyzing light of an image by Anthony Mandler
  • 07:17 – 11:30 – Analyzing light of an image by Jill Greenberg
  • 11:30 – 12:30 – Outro, and details for new contest to win a Phlearn PRO

We covered three amazing photographers today and have countless others in our comprehensive list of Inspirational Photographers!

Check out the 5 in 1 Reflector here

New Contest

Find a photo on the internet, a photo you like, and analyze the light in the photo. Post the photo in the comments, your guess of how it was lit, and then we will pick someone randomly to win a Phlearn PRO. Have it posted by Monday noon CST.

  • iamjohnwhite

    awesome video. loved it Aaron, loved the popsicle pictures too!

  • jabouja

    Very nice. You can see the behind the scenes video on the Onken shot here or search Cosmo Onken. the shot is at 2:53.

  • Aaron Nace

    Thanks so much!

  • Marius Manastireanu

    Ok, so in the image of Marloes Horst attached, it is clearly that the main light is from the upper right side (pink) – one can observe the harsh shadow from her cheek and the harsh shadow from the right arm (left side).
    However, fill lights were used too: from the left side, probably a grided strip box (black) – we can see a very thin line on the left hand side of the image, 
    and another light probably a ring flash/a softbox (green) – a light that a bit higher, but was very close from the lens axis judging by the shadows left – we can spot the lights on her forehead, lips, bra etc. 

    btw, I think that the last photo that you presented also had a light for the background, you can see how the light is falling apart in a gradient way – if this makes sense :)

  • roman

    I’d guess that the Jill Greenberg shot is using one of those cheesy adjustable three faced reflector and it bounces light back at the kid from the rim lights.

  • jonathan thorpe

    isnt jill’s front lights on axis? i feel like it looks under lit because the child is looking up with her eyes, causing the reflections to fall in the bottom of the iris. had she looked at the camera, the catch lights wouldve been center of the pupil

  • Mazhar Basa

    For the catch light in the eyes of the model in Jill Greenberg’s shot, here is my guess :)

    The light is not even on the surface of the light source so might be reflectors and the pattern looks like 
    “triflector” maybe there is a beauty dish as well but we cannot see its catch light because the eyes are looking up.

  • Aaron Nace

    Good point Jonathan

  • Nick Bedford

    This isn’t a photograph, but a still from the TV show, True Blood. I’d already analysed it as part of learning about lighting in cinematography, but I thought it would be worth posting as they’re very similar areas in many ways.

    I’ve annotated the lighting.

  • Stevie

    Interesting, but I felt like there’s a lot more I’d need to know to figure images out, e.g. if there are hard shadows what light source would have been used? Would it have been close or far away? If an image has quick fall off, how would that have been achieved? Just happens to be something I’ve been looking into a lot recently (trying to figure out the lighting used here: ) and still feel pretty stuck! :)

  • Ian Arneson

    Ian Arneson

    [having trouble logging in]

  • Iarneson

    Ian Arneson

  • Ian Arneson

    My Submission.

    Sorry for the 2 posts below. :[

  • Matt Liu

     My submission.

    this photo have a big studio flash light at the back as Rear light, the size of the light it looks like it is using a big beaty dish.

    There is a second lighting that  at the right top to create a subtle side light to light up the subject

    i see a small eye catch light, but it doesn’t look at it is from a flash, i think it is from a reflector.

  • Matt Liu

     sorry to post the pic.. hahah

  • Stephanie Krzywinski

    A photo by Richard Avedon. I think the main source of light could be a softbox, from above and in front of her ( we can see it also in her eye), from a diagonal angle ( ’cause of the shadows).
    There might be something to bounce the light and fill the shadows, as the shadows in her face are lighter than the arm`s shadows, there is also a tiny white spot in the left side of her eyes.

    Now, thinking more about the background there is a possibility that the main light is big enough to reach it.

    I looove your videos!! keep on rocking!

  • Rob Rice

    I was poking around in the Inspirational Photographers section and came across this photo by Art Steiber which I loved!

    Basically, what we have here is a gentleman watching a film from a projector. This could have been a real projector casting an image on a screen/white wall, producing a large soft light source, or this could be a plain old soft box imitating that effect. We also have light seeping in from a window behind and to the right of the subject, and we can see that highlight/rim on the right side of his head and arm.

    The interesting thing here is that if you really look at where the projector is pointing, it doesn’t look like he’s looking at the projection at all, slightly off and into the distance instead. The dark shadow on the left side of his head emphasize that idea as well.

    Must be a boring movie ;)

    One thing I’m a little confused on is the leg of the table and the harsh shadow that makes it look like there’s another light source coming for a different direction (closer to the camera). Any ideas?

  • Aaron Nace

    Congrats for winning Rob! Send us an email here to claim your prize!

  • Ovi

    i think you should put the microphone on the left

  • lilleallen

    Bit late to this, but I just saw a video of Jill Greenberg recreating her lighting in a shoot for Gwen Stefani. She used two umbrellas on axis, a flash ring, and two soft boxes above the subject. 

  • Sachin Myneni

    Any idea why Jill didn’t use 1 strip box instead of 3 lights in the front?
    Is it to create a particular shape of the catch light to give a certain “look” to the crying kid?

  • Thomas Shue

    I was so interested in this post, I made my own blog post tutorial and have made a few conflicting observations on the Jill Greenberg images. You don’t have to see the entire blog post, you can see the video here

  • Thomas Shue

    No it is not a tri reflctor, it is way more complex than that, see here

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