Create dramatic lighting portraits.
Even lighting might not always be the goal. Dramatic lighting with strong contrast or uneven patterns will add a level of intrigue to portraits. Add drama with the stark transition between dim areas and bright spots caused by hard light. The key to moody photography is a high-contrast look, which works especially well in black-and-white portraits.
How to amp up the contrast.
Use an artificial light source to splash bright light on certain areas of your subject, while leaving other areas dark. You don’t need professional equipment to achieve dramatic lighting. Desk lamps, street lights, or even the screens of computers and mobile devices can add interesting light to your portraits.
Place grids, screens, or other objects between your subject and a focused light to cast captivating patterns on your portrait subject. Then hop into an editing program like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to emphasize the patterns or concentrated light in your image. Increase the overall contrast, lighten the bright areas, or darken the shadows to achieve the look you’re going for.
Try different angles.
Move the position of your light or your subject. Dramatic lighting from different angles changes the mood of your portrait. Putting a light behind your subject is called backlighting and creates a silhouette effect. Side lighting that illuminates only one side of your model creates a partial silhouette.
To achieve the famed three-quarter lighting that pro photographers refer to as Rembrandt lighting, aim your light source to the side of your subject’s face at a 45-degree angle. Look for the telltale triangle of light — the light should contrast with the darkest side of the face to shape the subject’s nose and cheekbone.