Every day new and exciting images are competing for our attention. Famed UK photographer, Jake Hicks returns to PRO EDU teaching a fundamentally simple yet powerful technique to create long exposure portraits impossible to ignore.
Long Exposure Portrait Photography
Combining ambient light with studio strobes, Jake introduces four unique methods of creating long exposure photography portraits while capturing unbelievable practical effects in-camera.
This tutorial was designed to teach you not just the technical aspects of long exposure photography but how to be truly creative in the studio and experiment in ways that will set your portrait work apart from the rest.
Long exposure is a photography technique that you apply on top of an already great image rather than it being the whole purpose of taking that image. This is the difference between making a long exposure effect and actually having a great long exposure portrait.
There are four categories discussed in this long exposure portrait tutorial.
Also included is Jake's step-by-step process in Lightroom and Photoshop in each and every stage.
Meet photographer, Jake Hicks and receive a training series overview for this tutorial on long exposure portraits.
Lighting Setup (4:19)
Before learning to paint with light, identify a general overview of the equipment and overall rationale of Jake’s lighting setup. Work to create incredibly strong portrait lighting and posing in order to make beautiful, compelling, and engaging long exposure images. Build the foundation of a strong portrait and its subsequent lighting. Develop a rock solid foundation in the lighting setup training.
Key Light (4:43)
Observe the importance of building up the set 1 light at a time to achieve precise results in a long exposure light painting for an in-studio shoot. Learn Jake’s specific approach to settings, gear and lighting approach to create the highest quality exposure and image capture. Practice with some initial lighting test captures.
Fill Light (4:19)
Continue the lighting build up, adding a fill light with more insight into the gear, rationale, and testing to shape the proper lighting balance between the fill and key light. Prepare your images with a shoot-to-edit approach, creating the widest latitude possible for creative control in post-production, with a mindful approach towards the shadows. Work without a light meter, learning to trust your eyes and look for specific details as you manipulate your long exposure lighting setup. Identify some of the components of what helps to create depth and dimension in your image.
Work to adjust the backlight to create a perfect balance between the key and fill lights. Test a few exposures, continuing to dial in the balance for optimum balance of skin exposure, shadow latitude, focus, contrast, and dimension in the long exposure portrait.
Hair Light (7:44)
Position the hair light with precision to avoid unwanted shadows and create the final harmonious balance across all 4 lights. Lean how to avoid creating visual conflicts by properly positioning and angling the lighting setup. Work through iteration, refining a perfect lighting balance, with layers and nuance in the setup process to achieve beautiful captures for long exposures.
Work through a variety of poses to test the strength of the lighting setup and flexibility before beginning the long exposure light painting process.
Light Painting Tools (3:06)
With the lighting setup, posing, and tools identified and tested, begin the iterative and experimental process of long exposure light painting.
Exposure Test (13:58)
Implement the tools and philosophy as you learn how to paint with light in a studio environment. Assess the ambient light level in the room. Iterate through multiple tests to find the sweet spot of creating compelling imagery with this long exposure technique. Develop a sense of how to move light in relationship to the time of the long exposure. Analyze what is happening in the captures and how to adjust your technique to avoid unwanted artifacts and achieve clean image captures.
With testing complete, apply gels to the lighting setup to create a balanced color temperature between the set lights and light painting tools. Put all of the knowledge to work and create multiple long exposures, learn the basics of painting with light in studio using a variety of techniques to create beautiful, organic portraits. Develop an eye for problem areas and how to solve them.
Lighting Setup (6:57)
Advance your light painting skills with an entirely new setup. Refine your set with a new model, wardrobe, colors, gels and light brushes. Prepare modified tools to create a variety of new shapes and textures of light and entirely new creative.
Shoot Part 1 (14:59)
Create long exposures with dimension and a variety of shapes using the new gel setup and tools. With the effort of careful, layering to the light setup, along with methodical testing in the early stages of the process, achieve powerful results in your imagery, while minimizing problematic variables.
Shoot Part 2 (10:09)
With a rock solid lighting base, alternate with different light brushes and gels to create even more variant imagery. Learn to adjust speed and movement of your lighting tools as you paint with a different source shape
Wardrobe Change (11:49)
Work with a change in wardrobe, gels, and a combination of light painting tools. Refine the long exposure light painting technique.
Use Lightroom to select an image and prepare it with a procedural and methodical approach for the final editing within Photoshop
Clean Up (12:50)
Begin retouching the first of four images in Photoshop. Take a broad approach to cleaning up various elements of an image, focusing on major problem areas first. Utilize the patch and cloning tools to create a clean foundation for the long exposure retouching workflow - with a primary focus on skin.
Dodge & Burn Targeted (6:44)
Apply dodging and burning in a targeted way to affect specific areas of skin. Create more continuity, definition, depth and tone in specific areas of the subject’s face.
Frequency Separation (7:01)
With the initial, targeted areas resolved in cleanup and the initial dodge and burn pass, complete the process of retouching skin. Develop a methodical approach to create smooth texture along with even and natural flow to the skin’s surface
Build a multi-purpose mask to create a more distinctive background with richer color and gradation. Save that same mask for other retouching techniques further on in the workflow
Dodge & Burn Global (8:28)
With the same multi-purpose mask, dodge and burn the image with a global approach to create more dimension and definition for the entire image.
Continue to enhance your image by applying a procedural, multi-pass sharpening effect, without affecting the overall color. With a subtle build up of layers, blend modes, and opacity adjustments begin to realize the final stages of your image.
Color Toning (5:48)
Apply the final layers of polish to your long exposure portrait with an intelligent approach, using isolated color channel curves to bring out the most vibrant and balanced final grade.
Lighting Setup (8:02)
With a new model, background, and wardrobe, learn another approach to long exposure photography. Observe how to place movement on the background of your set. With this emphasis, walk through the lighting setup to properly expose this technique.
Begin dialing in your settings to properly expose the backlight onto the white backdrop. Test through captures, isolating the variables to achieve the best results.
Key & Fill Lights (10:30)
With the backlight set, iterate through multiple test exposures to hone in the settings for the key and fill lights. Analyze the relationship between the model and the background, breaking down each exposure. Learn to identify the variables affecting each capture. Understand the relationship between pose, lighting, camera lens selection and background to master this technique of long exposure.
Camera Movements (5:53)
After creating a solid lighting foundation, work through a series of captures by adding camera movement. With the addition of camera movement, learn to create new long exposure effects in relationship to the new background.
Learn to integrate camera movement with moving poses while also adding additional movement on the subject with a fan. Examine your captures to discern how to maintain focus while achieving the long exposure affect of variable movement within your setup. Experiment with your shutter speed to create even more variance.
Wardrobe Change (7:42)
Create a completely different look with a change in wardrobe, adding a gel, but virtually no change to your lighting setup. Maximize your shoot time by making simple tweaks to achieve a vastly different look.
Select and prepare the best long exposure image to retouch in Photoshop using some of the key features of Lightroom.
Begin retouching the second of four images in Photoshop. Apply a first past process with skin cleanup. Use patching and liquify to create a solid base for skin and volume to the subject, before moving into a multi-layered approach
Dodge & Burn Targeted (4:25)
In a second pass, approach skin cleanup with a targeted perspective, isolating specific areas to dodge and burn. Develop a more dimensional, even look, focusing on specific areas to protect and repair.
Frequency Separation (4:26)
With the major areas of cleanup resolved, learn to apply a procedural and methodical approach to skin smoothing. Create even texture with tone.
Quickly create a another multipurpose mask with the immediate intent of isolating the subject from the background.
Dodge & Burn Global (6:38)
In this retouching pass, create a more globalized dimension with shadows and highlights, pushing your image towards the final phase of retouching. Utilize your multipurpose mask to quickly and intelligently apply changes to isolated areas of the portrait.
Apply sharpening with confidence, without affecting the color balance and tone of your image.
Color Toning (4:22)
Clean up a variety of spots, bumps, discolorations, and reduce unwanted highlights
Lighting Setup (5:10)
With a third model, new wardrobe, and new lighting setup, create an entirely new variant of the long exposure photography technique with the lighting emphasis moving back to the subject. Walk through best practices, with lighting, with the goal of a achieving a vibrant, light trails effect.
Edge Lights (3:44)
Work through test captures to refine the edge lighting setup and experiment with different shutter speeds to achieve ideal results. Continue to walk through the lighting rationale, building towards perfect results.
Key & Fill Lights (5:54)
With the edge lights locked in, iterate through multiple captures to refind the key and fill lighting. Reinforce the importance of keeping the ambient and flash lighting separate to achieve the long exposure effect while maintaining tack sharp focus on the subject. Adapt with Jake, as he makes a creative decision to change wardrobe on the fly. Learn the importance of wardrobe and the role it plays in this method of long exposure portrait photography.
Camera Movements (7:44)
After a quick wardrobe change, work through multiple captures to create the light trails effect. Analyze how camera movement works with the specularity of the wardrobe, to create fiery trails of light. Study how camera movement and shutter speed directly relate to the light trail effect and how to control it.
With proper wardrobe selected, lighting and camera settings honed, and camera movement on the subject refined, focus on the proper posing to shape light trails around your subject. Compare Rear vs Front Curtain Sync Flash methods with best practices for this studio portrait shoot.
Wardrobe Change (10:38)
With a final wardrobe change and new color gels, put all of the techniques together to create a final set of unique, long exposure images. Employ camera, subject, and fan movement to shape dimensional light trails around your subject. Test and vary your movements and implement of your gained knowledge to create beautiful, long exposure portraits.
Select a third image to retouch in Photoshop, leveraging the tools of Lightroom to create a balanced and properly formatted image for optimum editing
Clean Up (7:25)
Begin retouching the third image, with a first pass focusing on eliminating spots, bumps, discoloration, and reducing unwanted highlights with the subject. Apply some basic cleanup to the background.
Dodge & Burn Targeted (5:32)
Apply a second pass of skin retouching, using dodge and burn to isolate targeted problem areas
Frequency Separation (4:21)
Efficiently apply the same procedural method of skin smoothing to the third image for an even, smooth tone.
Use the same tool sets to create multiple distinct masks for more separation and control over the background and light trails.
Dodge & Burn Global (6:29)
As in previous lessons, utilize the variety of masks to isolate subject from background, and efficiently dodge and burn with intention. Create a global sense of dimension with highlights and shadows as you move towards the final stages of retouching this long exposure image.
Apply the same methodology of sharpening to the third long exposure image, with the same mindfulness of not affecting the entire image’s color balance.
Color Toning (7:30)
Complete the image with a final pass of color toning, utilizing separate channels to isolate specific colors in the highlights, midtones, and shadows. Tweak the highlights of the light trails, leveraging the masking work, for the final finishing polish on the portrait.
Night Shoot (13:16)
Go on location with Jake Hicks, and observe as he puts into practice all of the fundamentals of long exposure photography outside the confines of a studio environment. Watch 4 different setups and listen as Jake retrospectively breaks down the challenges and success of working on location to capture long exposure imagery.
Select and prepare the best image to retouch in Photoshop using some of the key features of Lightroom.
Clean Up (6:21)
Clean up a variety of spots, bumps, discolorations, and reduce unwanted highlights
Dodge & Burn Targeted (3:05)
With minimal skin to retouch, work efficiently to maximize the dodging and burning on this fourth outdoor composition, targeting a few areas to maximize skin quality and tone
Frequency Separation (4:38)
Utilize the same procedural method to maximize skin tonality, texture and quality. Apply this skin smoothing process to minor fabric inconsistencies.
Dodge & Burn Global (7:25)
Create subject separation, definition and dimension across skin and fabric to push the image towards the final layers of retouching
Apply a two multi-pass sharpening process to enhance the contrast of the entire image without compromising color.
Color Toning (6:35)
For the last image, isolate the color channels of the image to balance and finalize the color grade. Bring all of the layered elements together into the final, polished image for the on location, long exposure image.
Closing Thoughts (1:55)
Hear some final closing thoughts from Jake Hicks encompassing the journey of Long Exposure Portrait Photography and considerations for your work going forward.
See what other people have to say about their learning experience.