The Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Crafting Light and Shadow

The Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Crafting Light and Shadow

by Chris Knight


$35.96 $39.95 Save 10% Current price is $35.96, Original price is $39.95. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
  • Want it by Thursday, October 18?   Order by 12:00 PM Eastern and choose Expedited Shipping at checkout.
    Same Day shipping in Manhattan. 
    See Details


The Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Crafting Light and Shadow by Chris Knight

Without light, there is no photograph. As almost every photographer knows, the word “photograph” has its roots in two Greek words that, together, mean “drawing with light.” But what is less commonly acknowledged and understood is the role that shadow plays in creating striking, expressive imagery, especially in portraiture. It is through deft, nuanced use of both light and shadow that you can move beyond shooting simply ordinary, competent headshots into the realm of creating dramatic portraiture that can so powerfully convey a subject’s inner essence, communicate a personal narrative, and express your photographic vision.

In The Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Crafting Light and Shadow , Chris Knight addresses portraiture with a unique approach to both light and shadow that allows you to improve and elevate your own portraiture. He begins with the history of portraiture, from the early work of Egyptians and Greeks to the sublime treatment of light and subject by artists such as Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Vermeer. Chris then dives into a deep, hands-on exploration of light, shadow, and portraiture, offering numerous lessons and takeaways. He covers:

    • The qualities of light: hard, soft, and the spectrum in between

    • The relationships between light, subject, and background, and how to control them

    • Lighting patterns such as Paramount, Rembrandt, loop, and split

    • Lighting ratios and how they affect contrast in your image

    • Equipment: from big and small modifiers to grids, snoots, barn doors, flags, and gels

    • Multiple setups for portrait shoots, including those that utilize one, two, and three lights

    • How color contributes to drama and mood, eliciting an emotional response from the viewer

    • How to approach styling your portrait, from wardrobe to background

    • The post-processing workflow, including developing the RAW file, maximizing contrast, color grading, retouching, and dodging and burning for heightened drama and effect

    • How all of these elements culminate to help you define your personal style and create your own narrative

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681982144
Publisher: Rocky Nook
Publication date: 07/13/2017
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 495,404
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Chris Knight is a New York–based portrait photographer and educator. He combines his unconditional love of art history with his conditional love of technology, all with a flare for the cinematic and an uncompromising eye for detail. His work has appeared in Vogue, People, MSNBC, ABC, Ocean Drive, GQ, and other outlets. Chris is also an instructor at Pratt Institute and the New York Film Academy. He can be found online at

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 A History of Portraiture 1

More Fun Than It Sounds

The Evolution of Style 4

The Evolution of Art and Portraiture 5

Ancient Egypt (3100 BCE-332 BCE) 5

Greek Style (800 BCE-600 CE) 6

Onward to Rome (753 BCE-476 CE) 7

Medieval Times (476-1500) 9

Early Netherlandish (1420-1550) 10

The Italian Renaissance (1341-1600) 11

The Rebirth 12

Low Renaissance (1400-1479) 12

High Renaissance (1475-1525) 15

The Renaissance in Other Countries 22

Minding Your Mannerism (1520-1580) 25

Going for Baroque (1580-1750) 27

Heating Up the Dutch Oven (1600-1680) 30

You Go, Glen Rococo (1700-1785) 35

Neoclassicism, or: Why You Can Go Home Again (1750-1860) 37

Romanticism (1800-1850) 38

The Birth of Photography (1826-1827) 40

Pictorialism (1885-1915) vs. Modernism (1910-1950) 42

Photography Comes into Its Own (1962-Present) 43

Wrap-Up 45

Chapter 2 Technical Lighting 47

The Tools to Control Light

How We See 50

Contrast 53

Shadow 58

Qualities of Light 59

Modification of Light 64

Relative Size of Light 67

Relative Position of the Background 70

Giving Your Light a Job 72

Lighting Ratios to Control Contrast 76

Lighting Ratio: 1.1 77

Lighting Ratio: -1 Stop Fill 78

Lighting Ratio: -2 Stop Fill 78

Lighting Ratio: -3 Stop Fill 79

Lighting Ratio: -4 Stop Fill 79

Why Size Matters 81

Why Shape Matters 83

How Falloff Controls Contrast 86

Putting Light Where You Want It 88

…Blocking It Where You Don't-the Flag 93

The Special Order Menu 95

Wrap-Up 99

Chapter 3 Taking Shape 101

Shaping the Light, Mood, and Face

Seeing the Patterns 103

Paramount 104

Loop 105

Rembrandt 105

Split 106

Relative Position of the Light 107

Broad Light Versus Short Light 108

The Vertical Axis 110

Which Mood, Which Light? 111

Wrap-Up 111

Chapter 4 How Many Lights 113

Using One, Two, and Three Lights to Further the Purpose

The Purpose-Driven Light 115

Studio Versus Location Shooting 116

The Single Versus Multi-Source Approach 117

One Light 120

Two Lights 123

Three Lights 126

Wrap-Up 128

Chapter 5 Color 131

Directing the Eye and Influencing People

How Color Manipulates 133

Describing Color 134

Color: Symbolism and Emotion 134

Making Colors Play Nice 143

Monochrome 143

Complementary 144

Analogous 146

Triadic 146

Memory Colors 147

Wrap-Up 147

Chapter 6 Styling 149

Making Good Visual Choices

Strengthening the Purpose 151

Wardrobe 152

Backgrounds 155

Depth of Field 155

Contrast 156

Lighting 156

Environment Versus Studio 156

Textures 160

Hair and Makeup 160

Props 162

Wrap-Up 163

Chapter 7 Post-Production 165

Adding the Polish

How the Image Sausage Is Made 167

RGB Versus CMYM 171

Additive 171

Subtractive 171

The Components of Color 174

The Raw File 175

The Histogram 176

Developing the Raw File 179

What It Means to Develop for the Print 181

Workflow 182

Culling and Editing 182

Developing 183

Retouching 186

Final Steps 205

Wrap-Up 207

Chapter 8 Personal Style 209

You Do You

Developing Your Personal Style 211

Building a Cohesive Body of Work 212

Gear Does Not Matter (But It Kind of Does) 213

Gear Hang-ups 213

Why Gear Mattel's 214

The Narrative of the Image 215

Case Studies 216

Portrait of Linda 216

A Fighter by His Trade 218

Queen of the North 221

Wrap-Up 223

Final Thoughts 224

Index 225

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews