Good Lighting Enhances Your Portraits

by William Lulow

These days, with the digital age upon us, it is easier than ever to take a picture. It is another matter however, to make a great portrait. Here is a before & after example. The first image was taken with a camera-phone, the second with a professional quality DSLR. Hair, makeup, good lighting techniques and professional-quality lenses are responsible for the difference.

Lighting on the “after” image was made with a large umbrella main light, a small soft-box fill-in and two edge lights. The ratio of main light to fill-in was approximately 1:3. The edge lights were set to one f/stop brighter than the main.


Photographers need to learn how to use light properly to create really beautiful images. Whereas the first image is just a snapshot, the second is a well-constructed, studio portrait. Good lighting should ideally be done by establishing the overall mood and look to a portrait with a main light. Shadows should then be filled in with appropriate ratio lighting and lastly, accent lights should be added to give the image the additional “pop.”

There is really no way that a camera phone can make a really good quality portrait. First, the optics (although constantly improving) just can’t measure up to high quality lenses. Second, you can’t connect a camera phone to your studio strobe lights. Third, a camera phone’s resolution (even at 10MP), just can’t get the job done correctly. And, fourth, the camera phone really wasn’t designed to replace professional quality cameras and lenses. So, if you’re looking for a high quality portrait, forget the camera phone. You’ll always be disappointed.