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  • Writer's pictureEric

Watch out below....

Updated: Jul 24, 2019

Light height is incredibly important. In this post, I want to talk about light being too low. The problem is when the light source is lower than eye level. The result is unflattering light. Portraits should be flattering... The negatives to a light being too low is:

  1. It highlights the wrong things. A low light will highlights your subject's nostrils, the bottom side of her cheeks and her neck. No one has ever asked me to highlight these three parts of the face!

  2. It creates shadows that aren't helpful. When the light is higher than eye level, it creates some helpful shadows under the eyebrows, under the cheekbones and on the neck. These shadows are flattering and actually improve someone's appearance.

  3. We're not used to it. The sky is high. Lights are usually near the ceiling. We're simply used to lights behind higher - not lower. Because we're not used to it, when it happens, it's a little off-putting - unless you're telling ghost stories.

There are three typical situations where this happens:

Using a window that extends too low.

If a large window extends to the ground, chances are, it'll be lower than your subject's eye level. If most of the window is below the subject's eye level, you'll need to adjust your subject so she's lower to the ground or angled down so the light is relatively higher than eye level. A typical example is a sliding-glass door. If you're using a sliding-glass door, be sure that there isn't something low that is bright.


The sun is reflecting off concrete on the ground.

This happens all of the time. A photographer will place her subject in the shade but too close to concrete with direct sunlight on it. Concrete, or some other light material, will reflect that sunlight upwards and light your subject from below.


Using a lamp that is too short.

Lamps that are in the ceiling generally work out. But, if it's a floor lamp or table lamp, it's likely too low. In these cases, you've got to get your subject lower so that the lamp is higher than eye level.

A good idea is to ask your subject where she perceives the light is - as her to point to the light source. If she points downward, that's a problem. Hopefully, I've demonstrated the importance of light height. Remember, the light source should be higher than her eye level.

Try doing this yourself! Use a light source that is too low and make adjustments so that the light is above eye level and see the difference. I promise it'll look better when it's higher!


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