Before we jump into the light setup, lets discuss about this look first. What is portrayed in these fashion portraits is Style and Power. Mainly you will see this kind of work done for celeb musicians or actors...mainly females. The camera angle is usually low so that the model can look down upon you(no pun intended)! This symbolizes the control the model has over the viewer. Now if you try this with her lips closed...it might look arrogant. What we try to tell the model, is to take deep breath through her mouth, which leaves a slight gap between the lips. This adds the feminism to the power, and makes the image a bit sensual. It is a well known fact that supermodel Christy Turlington used to blow air gently through her lips to get that perfect pout! The style element is added by the hair style, clothes and ofcourse, The Lghting!
So, now the geeky stuff...
In this tutorial, i'm going to discuss a very important technique.......called 'light skimming'. Take a look at the lighting setup to geat an overview:
It's kind of like bending and controlling the light that falls on the subject. The reason for this lighting is that the wrap created by the edge of a big bounced light modifier like umbrella, beauty dish etc. is crisp and has a soft edge to it. The model here is lit by the light coming from the edge of the umbrella. The placement of the umbrella is very critical for this lighting. Imagine the half opening to be the entire light and place it in a way that the edge of the light just skims your models face. You have more liberty in placing the main light if you are using a second light as a rim/kicker/side(whatever you call it)light. Here i have used a stip soft box light. Any umbrella size will do for a mid length portrait. There are new deeper parabolic umbrellas these days...which are also intresting and work very well. If the background is close to the model, use a cutter(or flag/GoBo...whatever makes you happy!) to cut the light from falling on it, like in the image above. You can use a seperate light for the background, but here, i lit it with the stray light from the stip box light which gave just the right amount of illumination.
Again, i always emphasize on techniques where you can get the most out of simple lights. I see some behind the scenes where multiple softboxes, ringlights and reflectors are used to light a simple scene, which make me wonder, are they really showing how to light this, or to make the logos on the light modifiers visible from all angles...you decide. Many photographers have a tendency to use all gear they have to impress an art director, while there are some pros like Annie Leibovitz, who keep it real! Watch Annie use this technique below.