Black and White Rainforest Portraits of Amateur Chinese Model
Three beautiful black and white portrait photos of my favorite Chinese model Sylvia illustrate three different ways to use natural light to achieve very different looks and moods.
The first photo was taken between “setups” so it is a snapshot in a way. We just arrived to a new location, Sylvia my favorite Asian model sat down and looked back over her shoulder; the rest just worked out by itself.
The light source is the sun shining through the rain forest canopy admittedly its strength and direction is not easily controllable. But in the photo the face is beautifully and uniquely lit perfectly accentuating the model’s cheekbones and emphasizing her lips.
This could have been achieved in the rain forest or in a studio with careful setup but the beauty of on location photography is that these details often work themselves out.
Another detail is the perfect 3/4 profile which was achieved without setup or direction so the nose and the right eye is in perfect balance with the rest of the face. The right eye and the right cheek are nicely lit as it would be achieved in a controlled studio environment.
Also the metal earring catches the reflected sunlight giving an interesting and elegant geometric element to the photo. Its oval shape is identical to the shape of the model’s eyes and lips (rotated by 90 degrees) so it becomes a repeating shape (good thing).
This is how I like to analyze my photos often studying them for several minutes. Knowing how improvised the circumstances were while taking this photo and the lack of a “big production” (no studio, lights, reflectors, assistants, pro models) makes these types of pictures even more exciting and satisfying.
Beautiful Soft Black And White Headshot Of Asian Model
This beautiful headshot or rather beauty shot was taken a few feet away and a few minutes apart at the same location as the first photo but under very different lighting conditions.
I often get compliments on my lighting even though there are no “lights” involved only natural illumination. I pay a lot of attention to ambient light so that it assists telling the story and the emotion the photo is supposed to convey.
There are many advantages of soft light under the rain forest canopy for beauty photography. The light is diffused so there are no unwanted shadows; although some photographers try to use flash or reflectors to fill up the shadows with light but I am not a big fan of either.
Flash no matter how weak can cast ugly unnatural shadows behind the nose, head or the body of the model. Reflectors hardly produce a natural look unless the viewer has reflector blindness meaning they are oblivious to the fake effect.
Reflectors also require another person and often for the comfort of the model, to achieve an intimate setting and a connection and to establish trust between model and photographer it is better to have as few people on set as possible.
The photo above is a beautiful headshot. For starters we have a beautiful Chinese-American amateur model with an exotic and very symmetric face. She is not trying too hard, she is confident and intelligent without any previous modeling baggage or incorrectly learned poses.
There is rapport and a connection between the model and photographer. The location provides soft diffused light meaning there is no squinting, sweating or ugly shadows on the face.
The Hawaiian rain forest is a peaceful and exotic place that sets a relaxed and “beautiful” mood which is not easily achieved in a rigid studio setting especially when it comes to amateur or first time models.
The lens aperture is wide enough and the background is far enough from the model so a blurry backdrop is created. The background is dark creating a contrast against the white skin of the model’s curving neck to draw a beautiful shape.
The composition of the photo follows the rule of the golden section/ratio and the rule of thirds. The lines created by the model’s long neck and long hair guide the viewer’s eyes towards the face, the lips and eyes. The composition is balanced, simple and not busy or confusing for the brain.
Intimate Black And White Portrait Of Chinese Model
Same photo shoot at the same place as the above photos but this time the slightly different lighting conditions and wet hair create an exotic and wild look.
The sun is not shining on the model’s face but there is an opening in the rain forest canopy providing and stronger and more directional soft illumination. This creates some not so harsh shadows under the eyes and mouth which could be corrected but I like the realism the photo gains from those shadows. They are not too dark and distracting and because this is not a beauty shot those shadows are appropriate.
The hair being wet and the direction given to the model achieved a wild and almost “jungle child” type of raw look. It is intimate, mysterious and sensual.
The blurred background is composed of an exotic banyan tree famous for its roots-like trunk. The rain forest location once again not only assists by providing a great backdrop but also with setting the mood.
I had fun writing this post as I was studying these photos and was thinking out loud; hopefully it provides some good information to anyone interested in making the best of natural light.