Lighting and shadows are one of the things that add visual drama to a photograph, and I’m going to cover an easy tutorial on how to get optimal drama on a photograph with minimum post editing. Before I begin, I want to point out that I am a Photoshop 4 user, but this tutorial will essentially work with most digital editing software. Alright, let’s begin.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is pick two windlights. One that has a very dramatic effect of lights and shadows and then one that maybe doesn’t have shadows at all. For the latter, I prefer Strawberry Singh’s ‘Closeups’ or ‘Original’. I also like Luna Jubilee’s ‘Bright and Sparkly’ as well as Nam’s ‘Optimal Skin and Prim’ windlights.
For this example, I’ve used Phototools‘ Black and White # 11 and Strawberry Singh’s Original. The Phototools’ Black and White # 11 is available on the latest version of Phoenix Firestorm (they might be available on other 3rd party viewers, but I don’t use anything else but Firestorm and SL Beta Viewer.) For Strawberry Singh’s ‘Original’ you must download it from her blog. However, ‘Closeups’ is available on Firestorm and the Linden Viewer.
From the above picture, you can see my two images on the ‘Layers’ tab. Please note that I have layered the dramatic photo over the plain photo. I’m going to work mostly from the ‘Layers’ tab on the side bar. I’m not sure how this translates to other photo editing software.
What I’ve done is decreased the opacity of the dramatic photo over the other photo, which allows the better lit and cleaner shot to come through, but leaving the dramatic light effects. I’ve also pointed to the layer options. I’ve not given this layer any special effect and left it on ‘normal’, but if you’re a Photoshop user, try the different effects. Multiply, Overlay, and Screen are some of my favorites.
For a little added clarity on the face, I go to my eraser tool, make sure the brush opacity is decreased, and erase the face. Using a soft brush is the best. I like to use a very low opacity with a round, soft brush and just center it directly over the face. Now my face shines much more, becoming the focal point of this photograph.
This is essentially it for this tutorial. Obviously I encourage photographers to go much further with the post editing. There are countless ways of making this photograph even more dramatic with darker shadows and brighter highlights, but that’s a matter of personal preferences. If you have Firestorm or a viewer with a wide variety of windlights, play with this tutorial! It’s a lot of fun.
Here is my finished product. It’s been edited to be SFW here, but you can see my marvelous Lola breasts on my flickr photo here. I posted a smaller, more simple version of this tutorial on my personal blog “It’s a Wonderful SecondLife” with the credits if you want to know more about what I’m wearing.