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My question is more specific to the situation I am going to be shooting [with the subject being a person laying down in a hospital bed]

The photo will be taken from the ceiling above the bed and catch the entire bed in the frame.

Any tips you could offer this beginner would make me happy!

What are different ways of approaching the lighting of this subject to make it dramatic?

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possible duplicate of What is Rembrandt lighting, and when do I use It? – mattdm Feb 29 '12 at 20:56
The question linked as a possible duplicate includes a lighting setup. But I think maybe you could make this question more specifically about how to control the light on the dark side of the face in this situation. – mattdm Feb 29 '12 at 20:57
while "What is Rembrandt lighting, and when do I use It? " yields some good information. My question is more specific to the situation I am going to be shooting [with the subject being a person laying down in a hospital bed] – Graeme Feb 29 '12 at 20:58
That sounds good and interesting. Can you edit the question to reflect that? – mattdm Feb 29 '12 at 21:07
Sounds like an interesting project. – rfusca Feb 29 '12 at 21:19
up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you want dramatic shadows, you obviously need to prevent light from falling on those shadow areas. There are a few obvious sources of that light:

  • ambient light. Room/window light which is not coming from your main lighting source. Turn off your main light and see what other light is falling on the subject. Try to block that light (shut windows, turn off lights, close doors)

  • reflected light. If you have white walls, white bed sheets, you'll get a lot of reflected light. Out of camera shot, try to use black materials to absorb the light rather than reflect it.

  • main light

    • if your main light source is too large the light may wrap around the face. For more dramatic lighting use small, hard lights.

    • Light may be scattered onto ceilings and walls - if you can use snoots, grids or barn doors to concentrate and direct the light, you'll get more contrast on the face. Not sure what lamps you're using, but try to shield them so the light is directed only at your subject.

    • Light falloff - the closer you get the light to your subject, the more light falloff you'll have (due to the inverse square law), so move your light as close as you can without being in frame (or remove in post processing if you must)

  • fill light. In addition to your main (key) light, you may have other lights you're using. If you don't have the lighting (contrast) ratio you want, use less fill. Turn those lights down if you can, or move them further away.

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