Fill–Additive or Subtractive?
By Stephen Dantzig, Psy. D.
This shoot was a continuation of my video project with Bella Torre Make-up Academy in Honolulu. Kecia Littman was demonstrating a beauty make-up technique called “Smokey Eye.” My job was to light the set to show the make-up.
We started with a variation of my typical beauty lighting scheme (softbox over the camera with a silver reflector on a posing table with reflectors on either side). We moved the 30X40 softbox over to a 3/4 camera right position. We left the silver card on the table and placed a 4’x8’ silver card close to Serena Karnagy camera left. Spotlights were used as hair lights on both sides.
The silver card does exactly what we’d expect from a fill source: it catches the light that spills past Serena and bounces it back in to fill any remaining shadows created by the placement of the main light and table reflector. The “Additive Fill” creates a great lighting scheme for a glamour beauty image.
However, there is another type of “fill” that initially sound contradictory. “Subtractive Fill” is used when you want to intensify rather than soften the shadows. Essentially you are “filling” in more shadow detail. One way to do this is to change the fill card from silver (or white) to black. The black card, placed in the same position as the silver card, absorbs the light spilling past Serena instead of bouncing it back. The effect of the main light and original silver card is still apparent, but the black “fill” creates a deeper and more defined shadow line for a more “dramatic” beauty look and perhaps accentuates the “Smokey” feel that Kecia was creating. The hair light spills a little onto Serena’s jaw line and maintains some contrast on the shadow side.
We ended the shoot by having Serena take her hair down. Her thick black hair blocks the rim light from lighting her cheek to further emphasize the moodier effect.
Once again we see that some very simple modifications to your lighting scheme can make subtle, but important differences in your image. I hope that this short lesson gets you to continue to think outside of the box–especially when using “common” terms like “fill sources.”
There are plenty of other examples of how and why to use fill sources in Portrait Lighting for Digital Photographers: The Basics and Beyond. Pick up a copy at Amazon.com!