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How to Do Clamshell Lighting

There are lots of lighting techniques to learn, some simple, some complex, and they all offer something a bit different. One of my personal favorites is clamshell lighting and in this video, learn how to do it and when it will work particularly well.

I always found the name "clamshell lighting" a bit misleading. While the lights are set up to be one above the subject pointing down and one below the subject pointing up, that doesn't follow the shape of a clamshell at all; it should be the other way around! Nevertheless, the results are beautiful and it's a real favorite setup of mine.

Butterfly lighting, as it is sometimes called, is when a light is directly above the subject, tilted down 45-degrees, and creates a butterfly-shaped shadow under the nose. This is great, but on certain subjects, it can cause slight issues. The lack of up-lighting means there may be more shadows on the face than you want.

Have you ever noticed when you're skiing or out in the snow in broad daylight that people's faces look healthy and fresh? This is usually the snow acting as a reflector, up-lighting everyone. By adding a light or a reflector under the butterfly lighting technique, you get clamshell lighting which creates the same pleasing effect as snow.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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