This brightly lit portrait demonstrates the use of deliberate overexposure.

This brightly lit portrait demonstrates the use of deliberate overexposure.

In so much of photography we strive to never blow out the highlights, never lose the information, never lose the data.  Some will read this and think that it should always be so.  However, I contend that in portrait work, sometimes it can be useful to intentionally overexpose (by as much as 2 stops)  for the sake of artistry.  A beautiful woman will not be less so if her skin turns a bit porcelain and loses some detail.  The details that are carefully kept include hair (at least a large portion thereof), eyebrows, eyes, lips, eyelashes….those won’t blow out with that level of overexposure.  So, the brightly lit portrait can be a style that you can consider in your next shoot.

The portrait I am using for an example was lit with 4 studio lights.  2 soft boxes, a reflector with barn doors, and a beauty dish comprised the setup.  The beauty dish was above on a boom stand and the others are from behind.  I brought one box close to her side and upped the output, as you can see in the result.

If you don’t have the studio lights, you can achieve a similar result in almost any software package for processing photos.  Turn up the exposure.  But do have directional lighting in the original image or the overexposure won’t be  interesting.  A window light could work just fine for this.

If you use this method, remember that you’ll want to pay close attention to makeup.  It is going to be accented by the technique.  In your processing, you might need to burn or paint in a bit to make sure the lips are fully saturated and make sure that the eyebrows and eyelashes get a little burn to bring them back to a more normal exposure .  Bright shiny eyes are lovely, so the iris may need less retouching.

So when you try your own brightly lit portrait, take a number of shots, use fairly dark color makeup and shoot away.  If you use tons of makeup, that tends to look better in a darkly lit photograph. The brightly lit portrait is a look I reserve for women.  Men tend to look better with all the crags and imperfections in view and intentional overexposure is less flattering.