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| p.4 #4 · Beach portraits with minimal equipment.... |
I want to ask the group about the flash placement, specifically about placing the flask low to the ground off to one side pointed up at the sugject. I assume this would give light similar to a campfire, would it necessarily be displeasing?
It's all a matter of context.
Up lighting seems natural in a campfire shot because the source of the light, the campfire, is seen in the photo. But if you took a shot by the campfire but the fire wasn't in the shot and the viewer didn't know the source of the lighting was a campfire it would look odd because faces are normally lit from above most of the time and that pattern is our baseline for "normal".
The same is true for natural light. Except at sunrise and sunset the sun is overhead and neutral in color (as captured from a Daylight WB baseline). If the background clues like warmth and long sideways shadows tells your brain its late in the afternoon than warm yellow faces with a long sideways nose shadow will seem normal. But in a close crop, absent those clues in the background lighting yellow faces and long sideways shadows would seem less natural and flattering unless you connected the dots between what you see in the photo and an assumption about the time of day it was taken.
What seems normal is mostly a matter of the lighting clues (color and direction) being consistent with the time of day the shot appears to have been taken. Unlike a campfire the sun never gets lower than the horizon so up lighting, absent an artificial source in the the shot or the subject illuminated by light bounces off the ground will not seem natural. Uplighting on faces is a convention used in art for making a person seem sinister or evil, as if lit from below by the fires of Hell. But if the person is seen sitting on the beach at noon with an uplit face the source of the uplighting is grasped the the overall context seems natural.
What makes flash assisted shots seem fake is when the clues created by the flash (color and direction) don't match the background context or what the viewer would typically expect to see by eye. It's a subliminal reaction that can be difficult to quantify, but they just know it doesn't look "right".
I recall doing C&C for a portrait where the face indoors was up lit. It looked odd given the context of the background. In the discussion it was reveal the subject was standing in front of a doorway with a concrete sidewalk bouncing direct sun up off it. In a wider shot showing the doorway and source of the light on the face it would have seemed more normal, but still wouldn't be very flattering on the face.