A part of the photography learning process is to look at pictures and try to reverse engineer them. I want to learn how to reverse engineer portrait images. Reverse engineering the light in portrait photos is covered here, so this question is trying to pick other aspects like the following:

  • Flash is used or not
  • Flash is off camera or on camera
  • The value of Aperture/Shutter Speed approximately
  • If a reflector was used or not (and if it was silver or gold)
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Very closely related to photo.stackexchange.com/questions/14711/… \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Apr 25, 2012 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rfusca agree but it answers part of my question \$\endgroup\$
    – K''
    Apr 25, 2012 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ In that case, maybe it'd be better to edit this question to cover the aspects not addressed there, or to close this and create a new more pointed question. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Apr 25, 2012 at 18:59

1 Answer 1


Reverse "engineering" (shouldn't it be 'reverse artist-ing'?) light, whether from a portrait or otherwise is generally not rocket science, for determining whether flash was used and whether it was off- or on-camera, at least. Aperture and shutter speed are tougher to know without knowing additional variables, but those two items are actually not that critical, anyway. They are important when you shoot, of course, but it's not important to know them when you're trying to figure out what another photographer did...the main thing is depth-of-field, and especially with a portrait, you can get a pretty good guess on that by just looking at the subject.

David Hobby (Strobist) has a couple of really good blog posts on "reverse engineering":

You may want to look over his whole Lighting 101 series for a great tutorial on lighting.


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