Position of Hairlight

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Hoskt Junior Member • Posts: 44
Position of Hairlight
1

Can I have comments on placement of the hair-light in 3 point lighting?

Most recommend that the hair-light be directly opposite (1 in the diagram) the Main light.

Whereas some recommend that it be directly above-behind the subject (2 in the diagram), i.e. facing the camera.

I don't want an overly-dramatic lighting.

I'm new to studio lighting (have always natural light. I'm setting up studio lights to create youtube videos with completely black background.)

elliotn Senior Member • Posts: 2,025
Re: Position of Hairlight

Hoskt wrote:

I don't want an overly-dramatic lighting.

I'm new to studio lighting (have always natural light. I'm setting up studio lights to create youtube videos with completely black background.)

It sounds iike you don't need a hairlight, but if you want to experiment both positions 1 and 2 are viable.

photolando Veteran Member • Posts: 3,188
Re: Position of Hairlight
1

Really depends on what YOU like.  When I worked in a large volume senior portrait studio, we set all the hair lights above and slightly behind.  But we wanted all the yearbook shots to have the same look, soooo....

I personally don't really use a hair light.  I use a medium size strip box that I place opposite the main pretty much hugging the edge of the backdrop and angled slightly down towards the subject.  It's more of a combo hair light/separation light as it adds a nice highlight from the side of the head/hair to down the side of the body so it "separates" the subject off the background.

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Mike

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Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 14,720
Re: Position of Hairlight
1

A hair light can be almost any size and have almost any position except in front of the subject, and  it wouldn't surprise me at all if someone had used one that was in front of the subject.

What you are doing is making the hair look better and/or separating the subject's hair from the background.  The correct size and position for the hair light is the one that give the best look.

Think about someone outside late in the afternoon when the sun is getting close to the horizon.  If they stand with their back to the sun then the sun makes a beautiful hair light, and the brighter hair really separates the subject's hair from the darker background.

That is basically what you are trying to do with a hair light.

With a white background you don't really need a hair light very often but you might use one with a dark haired subject.  A hair light reflecting off of shinny dark hair can be a nice look.

With a darker background a hair light can help separate the subject from the background.  Without a background light the main light will usually illuminate the near side of the hair sufficiently.  It will also put more light on the same side of the background as the main light.  You use the hair light to separate the subject from the darker side of the background.

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Klaus dk
Klaus dk Veteran Member • Posts: 5,955
Re: Position of Hairlight

With a soft main, the hair can get rather dull. Black hair may end up a black mass without any definition and can easily blend into a black background, and blond hair will lose detail and look flat. The hairlight offers reflexes that makes the hair look like hair and not a hat, and separates black hair from black backgrounds.

Where you place it differs with the look you want. The only rule I know of and follow is that the hairlight should not light the forehead and the nose. I also try to avoid the hairlight shining through the ears.

In most cases I use a narrow (10 - 20°) grid on a standard 7" reflector on a boom placed above and slightly behind the subject, but have also used gridded beauty dishes 45° up and from the sides as combined rim and hairlights.

Good luck and good light.

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Michael Firstlight Veteran Member • Posts: 3,753
Re: Position of Hairlight
1

I use a strip box positioned just above the background up behind the subject.  Because of its length it can be a hair light for an individual or a group.  The trick I use it to feather the hair light most of the time.  That is, it is not pointed down directly at the subject's head - instead it is pointed somewhat upwards and I use the upper inner angled side to bounce (feather) the light back down.  That ensures that the light doesn't add to the light hitting the background (unless I want it to with a white background).  Because the light is up pretty high there is no direct light or flare to deal with. One of the benefits of doing this is I almost never have to reposition the hair light and can simply turn it on and on when I need or don't want it.

Regards,
MIke

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Ed Shapiro
Ed Shapiro Forum Member • Posts: 74
Re: Position of Hairlight
3

Understanding the ACTUAL function of the hair light important in
determining its placement, intensity, and aesthetics. Although
the hair light and background lights DO HELP with separation of
the subject from the background and preventing darker hair from
blending into the background, that is a secondary function. If
there is insufficient shadow detail in the hair and the
background distance, lighting and its provision of tonal or
color mass are not sufficient and properly addressed, the hair
light will no do the job all by itself and will only provide an
incongruous highlight on the hair without detail and texture.
There should be some detail in the hair even before the hair
light is placed is applied. Attention to exposure, lighting
ratio, contrast, and dynamic range is the starting point.

The job of the hair light, IN CLASSICAL PORTRAITURE, is to
CONTINUE THE GLOW OF THE MAIN LIGHT INTO THE HAIR. This adds
some additional specular highlights and "glamorizes" the hair.
In more stylized or theatrical portraiture, the hair light may
be more intense and less subtle and maybe multi-directional
whereas in classic work it should come from the same direction
as the main light to avoid disunity of lighting.

ANGLE OF INCIDENCE- The hair light is an ACCENT light and must
strike the subject at an angle of incidence that will be
sufficient to create the specularity. In order to do this, it
needs to come in at an angle, not directly over the subject's
head. It should not strike the lens and cause flare, it should
not spill onto the background and most importantly, it should
not wash down on the subject's forehead or the mask of the face.

POWER OUTPUT- When lights are placed at steep angles
of incidence (between 90 and 135 degrees from the camera subject
axis) they tend to appear brighter than the other light in the
setup even if they are set at the same output at the
same distance. So... cautions to be taken so that the
highlights in the hair are not wash out and retain detail and
some texture. You may have to regulate or reduce the power
output, distance or diffuse the hair lightly to prevent it from
overpowering the effect of the main light and still provide the
accent effect. In some cases FEATHERING will help, that is,
using the edge of the beam rather than the hot spot. Obviously
blonde, light, gray, or white hair will require less light than
darker hair. You also want to make sure that the hair light does
not cause dark hair to appear as prematurely gray or white. Add
the specular highlights and glamour but don't blow out the
highlights.

LIGHTING GEAR. There are various ways of providing hair
lighting. The trick is to use a quality of light that is
compatible with the main lighting sources. In my studio, I use
various hair light sources. My usual source is an electronic
flash unit equipped with a FRESNEL lamp head. It has an
adjustable beam and can be fitted with barn doors, snoots and/or
diffusers. I have strip-light type softboxes as well-especially
were the manly source very SOFT. With groups, I may use a
strip-light softbox or multiple Fresnel spots.

SPECIAL GLAMOUR HAIR LIGHTING-Sometimes, with female subjects,
especially if they have an ample hairstyle, I use a special hair
light method whereby I use my background light with a kinda a
"half-shell" reflector and I hide it directly behind the subject
and aim it directly into the hair. Alternatively, I can use it
in BARE BULB mode and it will light the hair and the background.
This works nicely for theatrical, fashion style, classic "Old
Hollywood" approaches and the ladies seem to like it.

SO...if you took the time the read the aforementioned stuff, you
now have the theory- NOW comes the NUTS AND BOLTS:

You can suspend the hair light on a light stand equipped with a
BOOM arm. Place the light high and the back of the subject from
the SAME direction of the man light. The beam of light should
SKIM the hair. That's "by the book". I sometimes break this
rule and bring the hair light in from the opposite side if I
feel the hair needs more sparkle or glamour. Sometimes I even
use two hair lights. If you require more precise control, add a
snoot or barndoor set to subtract light from where you do not
want it to strike. You can add a sheet of diffusion material
for more compatibility with softer main lighting or reduce the
output.

If you want to employ a fixed hair. light for groups, you can
rig a strip-light softbox high and to the back of the subjects
but is important to baffle the beam so the light doesn't strike
the lens. I have using lovers to or grids to keep the beam in
tighter control.

Taking exposure meter readings and making tests will aid in
standardizing you setup for exposure, ratio and aesthetic
effects. Once you find the effect you prefer, it should be easy
ro repeat, replicate or vary the effect.

I know this was a VERY long post. I have been in the
portrait/commercial business a competitor and a judge. I have
seen many hundreds of images that were spoiled by bad lighting
and misuse use of accent, kicker and hair lights.

By the way- the diagram in the OP's post is not good- It shows
the main and fill-lights creating "cross light". The fill light
should be close to the camera OR provided by a broad bounced
source, OR on the same side as the main light. That's an issue
for another thread!

Attached images show some of the equipment I have mentioned and
a few examples of the results.

Ed Shapiro is Commercial and Portrait Photographer in Ottawa,
Ontario  Canada

-- hide signature --

Ed Shapiro- Commercial and Portrait Photographer. Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Ed Shapiro
Ed Shapiro Forum Member • Posts: 74
Re: Position of Hairlight

Ed Shapiro wrote:

Understanding the ACTUAL function of the hair light important in
determining its placement, intensity, and aesthetics. Although
the hair light and background lights DO HELP with separation of
the subject from the background and preventing darker hair from
blending into the background, that is a secondary function. If
there is insufficient shadow detail in the hair and the
background distance, lighting and its provision of tonal or
color mass are not sufficient and properly addressed, the hair
light will no do the job all by itself and will only provide an
incongruous highlight on the hair without detail and texture.
There should be some detail in the hair even before the hair
light is placed is applied. Attention to exposure, lighting
ratio, contrast, and dynamic range is the starting point.

The job of the hair light, IN CLASSICAL PORTRAITURE, is to
CONTINUE THE GLOW OF THE MAIN LIGHT INTO THE HAIR. This adds
some additional specular highlights and "glamorizes" the hair.
In more stylized or theatrical portraiture, the hair light may
be more intense and less subtle and maybe multi-directional
whereas in classic work it should come from the same direction
as the main light to avoid disunity of lighting.

ANGLE OF INCIDENCE- The hair light is an ACCENT light and must
strike the subject at an angle of incidence that will be
sufficient to create the specularity. In order to do this, it
needs to come in at an angle, not directly over the subject's
head. It should not strike the lens and cause flare, it should
not spill onto the background and most importantly, it should
not wash down on the subject's forehead or the mask of the face.

POWER OUTPUT- When lights are placed at steep angles
of incidence (between 90 and 135 degrees from the camera subject
axis) they tend to appear brighter than the other light in the
setup even if they are set at the same output at the
same distance. So... cautions to be taken so that the
highlights in the hair are not wash out and retain detail and
some texture. You may have to regulate or reduce the power
output, distance or diffuse the hair lightly to prevent it from
overpowering the effect of the main light and still provide the
accent effect. In some cases FEATHERING will help, that is,
using the edge of the beam rather than the hot spot. Obviously
blonde, light, gray, or white hair will require less light than
darker hair. You also want to make sure that the hair light does
not cause dark hair to appear as prematurely gray or white. Add
the specular highlights and glamour but don't blow out the
highlights.

LIGHTING GEAR. There are various ways of providing hair
lighting. The trick is to use a quality of light that is
compatible with the main lighting sources. In my studio, I use
various hair light sources. My usual source is an electronic
flash unit equipped with a FRESNEL lamp head. It has an
adjustable beam and can be fitted with barn doors, snoots and/or
diffusers. I have strip-light type softboxes as well-especially
were the manly source very SOFT. With groups, I may use a
strip-light softbox or multiple Fresnel spots.

SPECIAL GLAMOUR HAIR LIGHTING-Sometimes, with female subjects,
especially if they have an ample hairstyle, I use a special hair
light method whereby I use my background light with a kinda a
"half-shell" reflector and I hide it directly behind the subject
and aim it directly into the hair. Alternatively, I can use it
in BARE BULB mode and it will light the hair and the background.
This works nicely for theatrical, fashion style, classic "Old
Hollywood" approaches and the ladies seem to like it.

SO...if you took the time the read the aforementioned stuff, you
now have the theory- NOW comes the NUTS AND BOLTS:

You can suspend the hair light on a light stand equipped with a
BOOM arm. Place the light high and the back of the subject from
the SAME direction of the man light. The beam of light should
SKIM the hair. That's "by the book". I sometimes break this
rule and bring the hair light in from the opposite side if I
feel the hair needs more sparkle or glamour. Sometimes I even
use two hair lights. If you require more precise control, add a
snoot or barndoor set to subtract light from where you do not
want it to strike. You can add a sheet of diffusion material
for more compatibility with softer main lighting or reduce the
output.

If you want to employ a fixed hair. light for groups, you can
rig a strip-light softbox high and to the back of the subjects
but is important to baffle the beam so the light doesn't strike
the lens. I have using lovers to or grids to keep the beam in
tighter control.

Taking exposure meter readings and making tests will aid in
standardizing you setup for exposure, ratio and aesthetic
effects. Once you find the effect you prefer, it should be easy
ro repeat, replicate or vary the effect.

I know this was a VERY long post. I have been in the
portrait/commercial business a competitor and a judge. I have
seen many hundreds of images that were spoiled by bad lighting
and misuse use of accent, kicker and hair lights.

By the way- the diagram in the OP's post is not good- It shows
the main and fill-lights creating "cross light". The fill light
should be close to the camera OR provided by a broad bounced
source, OR on the same side as the main light. That's an issue
for another thread!

Attached images show some of the equipment I have mentioned and
a few examples of the results.

Ed Shapiro is Commercial and Portrait Photographer in Ottawa,
Ontario Canada

-- hide signature --

Images for my previous post.

Ed Shapiro- Commercial and Portrait Photographer. Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Michael Firstlight Veteran Member • Posts: 3,753
Re: Position of Hairlight

...and my starting reference for hair exposure:

Mike

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Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 6,209
Re: Position of Hairlight

Totally person preference, and easy enough to test out. Try some shots with various setups and find what you like. You'll also want to try varying the power and possibly the modifier.

FWIW, I usually prefer the hair light on the same side as the main -- putting it on the other side looks fake to me. And I prefer a very subtle light. But that's just me, and even I sometimes do the total opposite when I think it will be more effective.

Gato

OP Hoskt Junior Member • Posts: 44
Re: Position of Hairlight

Thanks for all your advice.

I bought 3 LED-panel lights from eBay.

In my small room/studio, the backdrop spans across an entire wall. The only way to create a hair-light is to place a large stand as close as possible to the wall to hold up the hairlight as close to the ceiling as possible. Then position the backdrop (with the hairlight stand between the backdrop and wall).

I note Ed's comment that the fill-light should be closer to the camera, although I notice--from a Google image search for 3-point lighting--that the main and fill light are often 90 degrees from each other. Whereas, Ed, you seem to say the fill should be closer to the camera?

I haven't set up the studio yet, and will experiment according to all your comments.

Please add further if you have further comments if you all have any.

Michael Firstlight Veteran Member • Posts: 3,753
Re: Position of Hairlight

Hoskt wrote:

Thanks for all your advice.

I bought 3 LED-panel lights from eBay.

In my small room/studio, the backdrop spans across an entire wall. The only way to create a hair-light is to place a large stand as close as possible to the wall to hold up the hairlight as close to the ceiling as possible. Then position the backdrop (with the hairlight stand between the backdrop and wall).

I note Ed's comment that the fill-light should be closer to the camera, although I notice--from a Google image search for 3-point lighting--that the main and fill light are often 90 degrees from each other. Whereas, Ed, you seem to say the fill should be closer to the camera?

I haven't set up the studio yet, and will experiment according to all your comments.

Please add further if you have further comments if you all have any.

Personally I am no fan of putting a fill light behind the camera - all it is doing is flooding the whole scene with non-directional light.  I prefer not using a separate fill light at all when I can and use a reflector when used properly, provides greater control.  If I have to add a separate fill light then I'll add it where I'd otherwise use a reflector for fill and be very careful not to have it become a competing 2nd main light.

Regards,
Mike

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Ed Shapiro
Ed Shapiro Forum Member • Posts: 74
Re: Position of Hairlight
2

Google and other online sources are not always necessarily going to yield solid professional advice on the finer points of portraiture. If you really want to begin the study of advanced portraiture, Google "Joseph Zeltzman Portraiture Lesion". want to study the art of portraiture. Download the lessons (there is no cost) and take your time reading into in the text as you construct o you studio area. It's kind "old school" in that it is rooted in the FILM era but the lighting methods are classical, definitive and completely applicable to digital photograhy and produced by a grandmaster of the craft. There is also detailed advice on posing, color harmony, and many other related topics.

You might consider installing your hair light on the ceiling- that will conserve floor space and may work well where there is limited space.

Fill light type, placement and technique is a subject in and of itself. There are many methods, A fixed fill ligt at the back of the room provided by a unit in a softbox, large white umbrella or parabolic lights bounced off the ceiling will provide an all-over fill for individual portraits or groups. This is basically flat light and is not supposed to provide "shadows" or specular highlights. A reflector can be used as well, however, that will not be practical for groups. The function of the fill light is to control contrast, maintain detail within the camera's dynamic range, and provide control over the ratio and key of the image. The man light provides the aesthetics of light and shadow, lighting pattern, and is key in the creation of dimension, modeling, and mood.

As I alluded to in my previous post, the classical method is to bring the hair ligh from the same side as the main light. I also mentioned that I sometimes break that rule for glamorizing purposes.

Yoru best bet in learning portraiture, aside from taking classes on a professional level, is to create your setup, start shooting and post your images for advice and critique.

Good luck!

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Ed Shapiro- Commercial and Portrait Photographer. Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 14,720
Re: Position of Hairlight
1

As always Ed, your posts about portraiture are incredibly illuminating.

Here is a link to Zeitsman's lessons.

Zeltsman Apporach to Traditionla Classic Portraiture

Looks like they forgot to turn on the spell checker, it should be Traditional.

Here is a video on classical portraiture with another long time portrait photographer.  I love that some of the things in this video are simple things that can keep you from making dumb mistakes that can turn a great portrait into junk.

Joe Brady, Frank Dispensa - Classical Posing & Portrait Lighting - YouTube

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KE_DP
KE_DP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,583
Re: Position of Hairlight
1

Hoskt wrote:

Thanks for all your advice.

I bought 3 LED-panel lights from eBay.

This is possibly going to be an issue depending on what you're trying to accomplish. Lighting most things is all about control and using modifiers to shape. What modifiers can one get for these - and at what cost?

In my small room/studio, the backdrop spans across an entire wall. The only way to create a hair-light is to place a large stand as close as possible to the wall to hold up the hairlight as close to the ceiling as possible. Then position the backdrop (with the hairlight stand between the backdrop and wall).

All you need is a boom. Here is a 7" reflector with grid which comes from in front and angles back behind the subject - rotate and angle the head to point forward to get the aim right to create the right spot/dispersion. In this case it's set to drape over his shoulders and also hit the hair. (Shown using the modeling light)

I note Ed's comment that the fill-light should be closer to the camera, although I notice--from a Google image search for 3-point lighting--that the main and fill light are often 90 degrees from each other. Whereas, Ed, you seem to say the fill should be closer to the camera?

I haven't set up the studio yet, and will experiment according to all your comments.

Please add further if you have further comments if you all have any.

Your 3 panel lights are (more than likely) all broad fill with very little control - unless they also have softboxes, grids, barn doors, reflectors, snoots - not sure what's going on here.

Fill can come from on axis, off to the side or many alternatives. There are no set rules that must be followed.

There's a ton of good info in this thread. It's splitting hairs but I do not think a light that hits someone from behind and off to the side is technically a "hair light" - it's more of a rim light. Just me. YMMV. It's similar in concept so call it what you will.

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OP Hoskt Junior Member • Posts: 44
Re: Position of Hairlight

KE_DP wrote:

Your 3 panel lights are (more than likely) all broad fill with very little control - unless they also have softboxes, grids, barn doors, reflectors, snoots - not sure what's going on here.

The LED panel lights I bought are the Nanguang CN-600SA lights which have barn doors and optional defuser panels.

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