Photography Series: Mastering the Art of Light and Pose: 5 Photography Techniques to Elevate Your Shots!

By: | April 23, 2023 | Tags: , , , , |
photography series

Hey Readers,

Welcome to our photography series!


I’m Alexa Shaw. I operate Exotic Images By Alexa and three other websites. Some as income, others as free education and entertainment for everyone. I’m known as an ‘eclectic photographer.’ I have many interests and possess advanced knowledge in the fields of my profession.


This is a just small introduction about me, and some of the people I work with every day. We never stop learning or seeking to learn more. The knowledge we gain, we apply to our services and products. We also share it with as many people as possible – even our mistakes – so you won’t make them!


I was born in Southwest Michigan, USA. At a young age I moved to Kentucky with my mom and stepdad and graduated there. As a teenager, I modeled for spending money and for my grandfather (he paid better and I got to play with his photo gear). I thought modeling was what I wanted to do, so I asked him to help me make a decision. He said he wouldn’t tell me what to think or do.


He did hand me a ton of articles, journals, model biographies, and news clippings. It wasn’t pretty and I chose to become a photographer. For the most part, I’m “self-taught” with a slight advantage. I was mentored, guided and shown many, many creative photography techniques, tips, tricks & “secrets” to the inner workings of my chosen profession, by a master photographer, of nearly 60 years, in the industry.


I’ve traveled much of the US and to exotic locations, photographed people, places, things and critters. I’m just getting started. Okay, I do have nearly 20 years of experience and I’m still learning new tricks and techniques every day. In a nutshell, these articles are some of the actual ways we improve our photography.


Grandpa’s collection of behind-the-scenes information gave me a peek into his photography life. Men, women, children, families, pets, war, crime scenes & forensics, special and live events, funerals and much more throughout his “decades” long career. He’s still doing it his way. No boxes. No rules. Pure creativity.


We do it this way because of what/how he taught me and so many others over the years. Let’s face it, would you really want to read articles, or a series, about creative photography techniques from someone with zero knowledge or understanding of photography? Would you ask a car mechanic to perform brain surgery on a child or family member? I’m really hoping your answers were – NO!


Do I refer to myself an expert? Absolutely not. Anyone that claims to be such, please – AVOID THEM. There’s no such thing. Just my opinion, the self-proclaimed moniker serves vanity and ego alone, much like assigning ‘esquire’ to one’s self to push false validation or some form of “noble” importance. It certainly doesn’t mean you’re Perry Mason and serves no one, except its possessor.


That shiny new camera you just bought is obsolete as soon as you walk out of the store. Science is always moving forward and manufacturers strive to capitalize on these advancements as quickly as possible. New data is being generated minute-by-minute, each and every day. No one can keep up with so many advances happening at such a perpetual rate.


Please don’t misunderstand, ‘knowledge’ most certainly does NOT mean you need to go to college, special classes, courses or costly programs. It DOES mean a certain amount of dedication toward learning as much as you possibly can about a selected subject, topic, field or ‘niche’ will be required to become the best YOU – that you can be – for yourself, family, friends or possible publication.


Everything you need to learn can be done on weekends, at night, on vacation, all on your own schedule. You can purchase any excellent camera gear from reputable used camera dealers at seriously reduced costs and start learning and capturing images – that same day. That’s what this series is all about. I’d love to help you get started on capturing images you’ll be proud to hang, display and maybe even post, publish, or sell, for a little extra income.


After emailing and discussing my ideas with Janice, and she being intrigued, I began writing my series. As I, and my colleagues, are doing this in our spare time, I’ll apologize now for not keeping a dedicated timeline, and will add, I’ll do my best to be consistent and provide Janice and her team with useful guides as often as possible, provided readers are interested in learning at their own pace.


I hope you find this series informative as well as helpful. It’s being written to help everyone of any age, education, and experience level, grow, learn and develop an interest in this amazing field that encompasses unlimited possibilities as well as increasing hobby interest and maybe even a profession. There certainly is no other job like it. We need more beauty in the world, and photography preserves this, in images – FOREVER.


One awesome piece of advice my grandpa did give me; I carry to this day. He said: “To be happy in life and at work, choose a job or profession you truly love and you’ll never hate your job.” I believe I chose correctly.


As a final note, I’ll impart a few words which I’ve heard many times from my grandfather. Mind you, they’re not his, he borrowed them from a little known scientist: Albert Einstein. He was very articulate about “knowledge” and “education” He said:



My first post in this series will help you learn about five (5) of the oldest, best, still used today, lighting styles, which can be applied to literally any setting and nearly any pose. These include: Butterfly, Rembrandt, Loop, Broad, and Split Lighting. Each has a specific purpose and can be combined with others to produce some truly creative lighting effects. This is my quick guide to: Lighting & Posing.


If reading articles by section, or possibly waiting for the next post, isn’t your cup of tea (or coffee), a free PDF version of the types of photography explained in this guide is available:

Let’s get started! Bring on the photography series!

Photography Series Part I: Butterfly Lighting

There’s plenty to say about Butterfly Lighting. It’s been known by a few names throughout time, and include: ‘Hollywood’ & ‘Paramount’. It gets it name ‘Paramount’ because of the film industry it’s named after.

 This lighting technique is the number one style used to light women and many men, worldwide. It’s the premiere “glamour” light set up for fashion, movie, TV and more. It was made popular in the 1930’s & 40’s, for the “butterfly” shadow cast just under the nose of the subject.

 It also sculpts, through subtle shadows, the cheeks, eyes and neck. It’s the most flattering light set up used to create high fashion & glamour portrait results for your subjects. When used properly, butterfly lighting’s sculpting abilities will softly shadow the cheeks, while at the same time, highlight the cheek bones.

     This gives the face a thinner look as a whole. The eyes aren’t forgotten either. Soft shadow light around the eyes includes highlights that reduce and soften lines, bags and wrinkles that might be seen in a different light. Butterfly lighting should be your first choice for any portrait work.

      In fact, many actors of old through today, demand they be lit using this technique. Some celebrities require it’s inclusion in their contracts. This light is all that is to be used in their portrait work.

     Set your camera and light in nearly the same place as your subject, raise the light about 2 feet above, at 45º and directly in front of your subject. You’re ready to begin test shooting. It’s really that quick & easy.

Butterfly Lighting Softbox and Reflector

photography series

This Butterfly setup uses a softbox and single white reflector, which offers a softer form of lighting for your subject’s poses. With the added reflector placed just beneath the model, or even handheld, the shadows under the eyes, along the cheeks, chin & neck are softened into smooth lines accentuating the full features of the face.

photography series

Don’t have a reflector? Build one! It can be made using just about any household items. These include: foam board, poster board, a white pillow case stretched over a piece of cardboard, bed sheet wrapped over PVC piping and a host of many other ways to DIY your photo gear.

Butterfly Lighting Examples

Photography Series Part 2: Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt Lighting Softbox

Rembrandt Lighting Sample Images

Photography Series Section 3: Loop Lighting

Like Rembrandt Lighting, Loop Lighting utilizes a light source from a sharp angle, set above the subject’s height. Where these differ, is in the angle. Rembrandt lighting sets the light 45º to one side or the other of the subject at 45º to the person’s body. Loop lighting uses angular light as well, yet is much closer to the camera’s position and arranged to create a slight “loop” shadow around one side of the nose, along the bridge axis.

 When used correctly, a thin, light shadow line will gently flow down the unlit side of the face to create a gentle “loop” or hook around the end of the nose. Loop lighting spreads more evenly across a person’s face, lighting both sides, while preserving medium to dark shadows to the unlit side, gradually darkening as it reaches toward the hairline along the ear.

Add reflectors of white for neutral diffusion, silver for cool, black for edgy richness or gold for warmth to change the effect of the overall look & feel of the image.

Raise or lower the softbox, or change it to an umbrella, beauty dish or other light source to alter the look from glamour to soft & rich. Transform it into your own style.

Loop Lighting Examples

Photography Series Section 4: Broad Lighting

Broad Lighting Softbox

Broad Lighting is quite descriptive of what it does to a subject’s facial appearance. The light is placed in a such manner as to light the “broader” side of the face.

This is the side facing almost directly into the light while the shadow side is nearly hidden. Although, not placed into complete darkness, the shadow side will produce a faint visible “triangle.” If possible, this set up should be used on thinner subjects as it tends to broaden the face making it appear full and open.

People with broad or large faces, shouldn’t be photographed with this light style. It’s the photographer’s job to know which is best for each subject to be photographed. Ever heard the expression: “The camera adds 10 POUNDS.” Well, that’s broad lighting. And yes, it does add pounds to any person at any time.

Place your light on either side and slightly above your subject. Point the light directly at the side of the face closest to the light source. Position it so it creates a soft glow on the lit side with a light shadow on the unlit side.

Place the camera directly in front, or slightly toward the shadow side of the subject and make minor changes/alterations from there.

Broad Lighting: Sample Images

Let’s move on to the last part of our photography series.

Photography Series Part 5: Split Lighting

Split Lighting Photography: Softbox and Reflector

Split Lighting Umbrella

Split Lighting Sample Images

Photography Series: FAQ

How do you make a good photo series?

A good photo series contains a collection of photos based around a theme and shown together.

Conclusion to the Photography Series: Lighting and Posing

Lighting and Posing Samples

Lighting and Posing Image Remarks

Each of the images extracted from our Eclectic Library Collection employed off-camera flash units on lightstand with softboxes, octaboxes, and/or shoot through “white umbrellas” or natural light and reflectors, or a combination therin.

Additional equipment and accessories included many, many batteries, a DIY portable power pack for

  • One small strobe for night and low light photography
  • 2 sets of 45″ round -5-color reflectors
  • 2 DIY translucent white scrims

Extra lightstands, umbrellas, softdish, and a single 20′ beauty dish were also on site. Fortunately, for us, each of the photoshoots were granted calm and breezy days all across the U.S.

Many thanks to the models, weather Gods/Goddesses, and Mother Nature for providing proper natural light, warm climates, no rain and ideal shooting conditions and locations.

Thanks to all of you for possessing the desire to learn more about photography and work toward creating your own styles. I look forward to SEEING what you learn in the years to come.

Readers, please share the information and images in this photography series so photographers discover this guide to lighting and posing techniques in photography and see these examples.

Author: Alexa Shaw of Alexa’s Exotic Images

Alexa Shaw previously contributed a MeWe review to the Mostly Blogging audience.

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