Good portrait lighting is as much about lighting the back of your subject, or what’s being it, as the front. In most cases it’s obviously important that your subject is lit so that you can see who it is in the photo, for this reason the initial considerations in a lighting set up are things like the choice between hard or soft light, and at what angle should this light be at relative to your subject.
Once this decision has been made you need to also factor in things that are perhaps not directly facing the camera. By this we mean the back of your subject and the background.
Lighting the back of your subject can do a number of useful things – it can separate your subject from the background, enhance the shape of your subject, or highlight a particular feature such as hair. In the image below we used a softbox behind and right of our model to create a soft light which nicely accentuates her hair, jaw and shoulder. The main light is a beauty dish to the front and slightly left. As you can see the light from behind, or accent light, creates depth and interest. The accent light is generally at a low power (it’s difficult to meter) and you need to be careful to prevent flare from the light as it’s pointing towards your lens. Try using a hood, or place something between the light and your lens (called flagging the light), which stops the light hitting your lens, but still allows the light to fall on your subject.
Image by Foster Congrave, created on our Studio Lighting Course.