Rainbow Portraits: Play and Experiment with Light | Tabitha Park | Skillshare

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Rainbow Portraits: Play and Experiment with Light

teacher avatar Tabitha Park, Product & Food Photographer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Method and Lighting


    • 3.

      Shooting and Posing


    • 4.

      Lightroom Edit


    • 5.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Capture a striking rainbow portrait using a simple suncatcher and any camera you've got in this exciting, experimental class! 

I'll be covering:

  • Finding the best light in your space
  • Working with a suncatcher for best results
  • How to style and pose your model
  • Photographing alternative subjects (plants and cats!)
  • Working with a DSLR or smart phone
  • Editing in Lightroom for more captivating photos

I'm so excited to play with light and try a new photography technique with you!

Meet Your Teacher

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Tabitha Park

Product & Food Photographer

Top Teacher

Hi! I'm Tabitha and I teach photography classes. I'm a lifestyle, product, and food photographer living in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, our 17 gorgeous chickens, and Smallcat! I love plants and coffee and naps. In my spare time I'm a reckless gardener (irl and in Stardew Valley), and unapologetic hobby starter. Currently hyperfixating on crochet, embroidery, and spoon carving!

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Tabitha. In this photography class, I'm going to share with you how to create this beautiful rainbow portrait. I first saw this type of photo on Pinterest, and Instagram, and it's always just been one that stops me in my tracks. I feel like these images are so beautiful, and striking, colorful, and it's, how do they do that? I found out that we use a suncatcher, but looking at the reviews on Amazon, I was a little nervous because a lot of people had a hard time getting rainbows to look really good. After a little bit of trial and error, I figured out exactly what you need to do to create these gorgeous, saturated rainbows, and I am super excited to show you the process in this class. A suncatcher like this, only costs $20, or you can buy a travel size card version for only five. No matter what your budget is, you can dive in and start creating these beautiful rainbow portraits. My name is Tabitha, a lifestyle photographer, a content creator, and I teach here on Skillshare. I'm really excited to play with light, and rainbows, and share with you. Let's begin. 2. Method and Lighting: Thanks so much for joining me. To create this rainbow spectrum portrait, you'll need four things; a camera, a model, direct sun through a window, and a suncatcher. You can get both of these suncatchers and a kit together on Amazon for $20. This one is glass and this one is just a thin card with plastic reflection material. I didn't realize this till after I bought this set, but you can actually get just the card for five dollars. So if you don't want to put in a whole 20 bucks for this project, you can just do five and get just as beautiful shots. My sister actually prefers the way this one casts rainbows more than this one. I'm using both throughout the class. You'll get an idea of what does what, and which one you might prefer for your project. The way it works is pretty simple. You have two pieces of glass with a sheet of diffraction paper between it, and when light passes through this, it breaks the light up into pieces basically, and then they're rainbows. There's some things that you can do to make your rainbows more contrasted and vibrant, and there's ways that you can make them more subtle and pastel. To get the most vivid beautiful rainbow, you're going to need direct sun. You want a cloudless day and needs to be very hot, very direct sun, no hayes, no clouds in the sky, this is going to produce the cleanest brightest light, and that's going to give you the deepest most beautiful rainbows. If you have overcast day or you've got partial clouds, anytime a cloud rolls in, your rainbows are going to be pale and not very bright. So I highly recommend taking advantage of a very, very sunny day. I do all my portraits for this class indoors. I work with a number of windows throughout my house or my parents house, focusing on the side of the house where I'm getting that direct hot sun coming through. Right now, it is a time of day where the sun is over there. Both of these windows in my office do not have direct sunlight coming through them, so this is not the right spot for me to do my shot. You want to make sure that you're getting those beams of sunlight, the kind of sun your cat wants to lay in because it's super hot and direct. That is my best suggestion for you. If you're shooting and you've got a bright room and there's a patch of sun and you're getting rainbows, but they're not super vibrant, it's because the room that you're in is too bright. You need to find a balance between direct sun in a dark room. I recommend, when I'm shooting in this room in the morning, I close the blinds on this side and then I adjust the blinds over here to be a slit. So I'm getting really direct light in a darkish corner of my office anyway, and this is giving me those really bright rainbows. At my parent's house they have blackout curtains in their kitchen, so we've got these big backdoor windows that sun comes in and just beats in, and so they have these blackout curtains and so if I create a little slice of light through these blackout currents, the room is dark and my suncatcher gets direct sun and shoots rainbows all over the place. That is probably the best place that I was able to find because it got very dark and I was able to work with just this little sliver of light. If you're having a hard time getting your rainbows to be as specular and contrasted and saturated, I would recommend getting in a darker room using brighter direct sun on a cloudless day and just playing with it till you figure out just the perfect spot for what works in your space. Something I recommend is start the morning figuring out what side of your house the sun comes in. My house is north-facing and this is the back of my house. Because I'm in the Northern Hemisphere, I get sun pretty much on the south side of my house. When it rises in the morning, I can get it through this window and the window in my husband's office because they're both on the east side, and then once the sun goes up to the roof, I don't have direct sun out of any of my windows basically. In the afternoon, once it starts to set, I get a little bit coming through my back door window on the south side of the house, and then I get a ton of direct sun coming in on the west side of the house as the sun is starting to set. Thinking about the angle of the sun, if the sun was coming straight down or at a very harsh angle and then it hits the suncatcher, it's going to give you rainbows on the floor. If you want rainbows up higher on a wall, I recommend waiting till the sun is at an angle in the sky so that it comes in at this angle, hits your suncatcher and it's more likely to shine rainbows on a wall so your model doesn't have to lay on the floor to get these good shots. The best spot that I found in my parents house was right on the floor next to the window with that tiny slit of light. I'm getting sun that's about to go over the edge of the hill, so it's like it's coming in at that striking angle and it's really, really beautiful. I don't know the exact science of how it works, but I do know that if you change the angle, so sun's coming in like this, if you change the angle, you can move your rainbows a little bit and you can also adjust your rainbows by changing the distance from the suncatcher to the light source. If my light source is here and my suncatcher is here, I'm going to get really big rainbows that are spread out really far and if I bring the suncatcher closer to the floor on my subject, my rainbows are going to be a lot more concentrated, they're going to be closer together and more focused in on one spot. Depending on the look that you're going for, play with the distance between the light source and the subject, and play with the angle that your suncatcher is coming in as well. Sometimes I like to play with the edge of the light like if I have a square of direct sun coming in from the window, I play with the edge of the light beam and that will give me a half circle of rainbows. It's this wild experimental method of getting the shots because you've really just have to get in your scene, put your suncatcher in the sun, see what happens, and then use that to figure out where you want to place your model. Using that particular method, I figured that I have a good spot of light here, a good spot of light in my husband's office and a good spot of light at my mom's house in the kitchen, and so I have gotten several different shots in each of these places that I found really effective. Again, this class is about experimenting so be patient with yourself throughout this process. If you're having issues, feel free to drop a line in the discussion or comments section in this class. Send me a picture of your room that you're working with and the light, and we can figure out what might be your issue or how to get it to work how you want. If you don't have any windows that have direct sun that come in, maybe you're in an apartment and you've got limited windows to work with. I recommend going to your parents' house or a friend's house, anybody's house who's going to have windows that are different from yours that'll let you plan an experiment, figuring out how to get the best looking shots for the space. In the next section, I'm going to show you a little bit of my shooting process so you can see how I put all of these concepts together to get a portrait. 3. Shooting and Posing: We are here in my parents kitchen. We have this big back door window and these blackout curtains. Basically, I have this hot beam of sunlight coming through. I've positioned my sister and then if I have her hold this closed, I've created a little slit and then I can put this right in that little slit and angle it until I can get the optimal amount of rainbows hitting her face or her hands or whatever I want to shoot, and it's going to take a little bit of work. I want enough light to come in that we can see her properly. Like if I have too much, it's going to drown out the rainbows and if I have not enough, the rainbows are going to be vibrant, but it's going to be hard to see her. So I have to maintain this delicate balance and a lot of that I can do controlling my exposure. I'm going to find a comfortable way to hold this in one hand and then begin shooting with the other. There's a few quick notes on exposure that I want to cover really quickly. Throughout this section, I'm going to be sharing my camera settings, my aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, if that's helpful for you, go ahead and use that as a starting point, but there are a few times where I'm shooting underexposed. I shoot in RAW format, which means I'm not shooting in JPEG, I'm shooting in RAWs. I have these big beefy files where I can take my edits really far one way or the other. If you have a processing program that can process RAW files like Lightroom or Photoshop, Camera Raw. This is what I would recommend because you are going to be able to save any images that you may have accidentally underexposed. The editing capability of a RAW file is far greater than that of a JPEG file but, if you do not have these editing programs, you're not going to be able to see your RAW photos, and so in that case, I would just say to shoot in JPEG and then just make sure you're paying really close attention to your exposure so that you don't have to go back and save any of these images. Here's an example of a couple of photos I got that were basically black and I was able to increase the exposure and the shadows in Lightroom and save them. They are quite a bit noisy and a little bit moodier than I would typically do for this particular shot, but I'm able to still use these photos. They're salvageable essential. That's just something I wanted to touch on a little bit. When you're setting up, if you want the flexibility and ease of being able to move around as much as you want with your camera, I recommend having a friend hold onto the suncatcher for you. In this demo, you can see that I have the sun catcher in one hand and my big camera and the other hand and after a while, my arms got super tired. The nice thing about these, suncatchers is they both have a little suction cup piece that can attach to a glass window. The only downside here is that you don't have the option to really fine tune the way the rainbows look by tilting and then also with the glass suncatcher, if it falls and lands on a hard floor, it could probably break. So use those with a little bit of caution. Next, I wanted to talk about working with your subject. For this class I dive into mostly portraits, but if you don't want to photograph a person, by all means, photograph your pet or plants or your bedroom with the rainbows shining in. Whatever you're most interested in. The concept and method is basically the same. If you choose to work with a plant, that's probably going to be the easiest option because they are virtually inanimate, you can set them where you want them and they will just sit and look great for you. If you're working with a pet, you might need to coax them toward the situation, lead them. With my cat, I had to lure her with a string and then keep her entertained as I was shooting and so I think we got a few cute pictures, but none of them were like Insta-worthy, and then working with a person, that's obviously my preference. You can communicate with them, ask them to move and do exactly what you want for the shots that you are looking for. If you don't have a lot of experience photographing people, it can feel really intimidating. You don't know what to say to them to get them to look good and if they don't usually sit in front of a camera, maybe they're not sure what to do. They'll say,''What do I do with my hands,'' and ''How do you want me?'' ''What should I do?'' ''Where should I look?'' And it can get really stressful when they're asking you a bunch of questions and what I like to do is just start, exude a little confidence, give them a simple command and then take a picture and then react to it. Look at the photo on the back of your camera and find something positive and be like, ''This is really working out'' or ''I love how this is going.'' Like if you are bringing energy and excitement to the shoot, they will reflect that back to you. They'll feel more at ease. They'll feel like you know what you're doing and they don't have to stress out as much that maybe they're not looking good on camera. There's a few prompts I wrote out that I wanted to share with you guys. Things I like to say to my clients when I am styling them. The first one is, ''Go ahead and run your hands through your hair for me.'' ''Awesome, but looks great.'' Just basically reaffirming that they're doing what you want them to do. Running their hands through their hair is a nice cue because it gives their hands something to do. They are in the middle of a natural movement. They're going to have more dynamic angles and they are actually doing something that feels somewhat normal to them. The next thing I'd like to say is, I ask them to glance. I'm like, ''Okay, go ahead and glance down for me.'' Take a couple of pictures. ''All right now glance back up at the camera.'' ''Perfect. Good job.'' The glancing is nice because sometimes if they're just staring right down your camera, it can feel a little stale after a while. Having them change their gaze and then change it back, you're getting fresher expressions and a newer look. Next, I like to ask, go ahead and raise an eyebrow for me. This one's fun because you can get a very curious expression that's natural and mysterious looking that I really like. You might get it confused expression if they feel nervous or embarrassed. They might laugh a little bit to ease off the uncomfortableness. You might get a confused look, a laugh. It's any of those, maybe it'll be great, maybe it only be okay, but you can always keep moving and try new things, and then, if you do ask them to raise an eyebrow, sometimes people will just like, shoot their eyebrows up. They just bam! Pop their eyebrow up and they have a very sassy, confident, strong, bold look, and they're just into it and that's always really fun too. Toward the end of the shoot or if they're feeling really tense. If they look really tense and rigid, I like to encourage them to relax a little bit. I'll say, ''Go ahead and relax your jaw for me, '' and typically this will stretch out their face a little bit. If they're clenching their teeth, they're going to release that clench and tend to look a little more flattering and not as tightly wound. You can also ask, ''Go ahead and barely part your lips for me. Just drop your jaw. Just a little so your lips part. Perfect. Just like that.'' Oftentimes it adds a little bit of fullness to the lips. You don't want their mouth wide open. You'd want to be able to see their teeth, but if there's just that little bit of separation between their lips, it often looks less tense and it feels natural and can give it that little extra something. Then lastly, I like to ask them to, ''Go ahead and close your eyes and exhale.'' This is nice because then they can just relax a little bit. They'll drop their shoulders. They'll just ease into this very comfortable, peaceful look. Sometimes people just look mad when their eyes are closed and their mouth isn't doing anything. If they just look really mad, you can go ahead and be like, ''Okay, go ahead and give me a tiny little smile.'' ''Good, just like that.'' They'll often curl up one side of their smile and you'll get just a peaceful, calm expressions. That's just a few things that I like to run through. You'll get in the swing of it. You'll figure out what feels normal and what's comfortable for you to ask them and how they work with you. You might get in a groove where you don't talk at all and they're moving and showing you expressions that are really natural and captivating and you just have to gauge it based on your comfort and their comfort and make sure that you are giving them positive feedback throughout. Next, I wanted to talk about working with a phone. I use my phone all the time and when I was doing research for this class, I was using my phone all throughout my house. Taking pictures and videos of where the sun was best and how it was working. This was great because I didn't have the stress of having to set up my tripod and get like cinematic shots of just these little experimental what does this look like? What does that look like? So I highly recommend utilizing your phone for this. You can also actually take your final photos with the phone. Just keep in mind, portraits are a little tricky because phones tend to stretch out the person's face and if you get really close, their face might look a little bit distorted. If you've got portrait mode, you can go ahead and toggle that on and try that out, see if it works out for you. One thing that we found that was super fun, is we did a lot of boomerang and bounce effects type photos. We would take this using the Instagram app or Snapchat, and then I would have her sit really still and I would hold my camera really still and then just gently rotate the suncatcher so that we would get these beautiful rainbows just dancing across her face and back and that was this like a really satisfying little mini gif type thing that we would make there. We also ended up playing around with shooting through the suncatchier. I put the suncatcher right up against my phone's camera and shot through it, and I got these really cool, hazy rainbowie effects that were like old film prism inspired that I thought turned out pretty cool. You could definitely hone this method and make it look really cool if you spend a little more time trying to finesse that and then, I wanted to talk about taking a selfie. If you don't want to work with another person, maybe you just want to shoot today or you really want this rainbow effect with yourself. I highly recommend taking the time to go ahead and photograph yourself. You can do this, it's a little tricky. You're going to have one hand holding up your suncatcher and the other hand holding up your phone and it's going to be this give and take for where you figure out where to put one hand and then the other hand and then, do your expression that you want, but I was able to get a few little videos and pictures laying in my husband's office, and the rainbows were super saturated and very fun, even just with my phone camera. Definitely don't feel like you have to have a DSLR dedicated mirrorless whatever camera to do this, your phone is more than good enough, and then one quick thing we learned after the fact is, if you touch the suncatcher, the little card one on the little plastic diffraction, you can get fingerprints on it. As far as I know, this doesn't really affect the way that it produces rainbows, but it just starts to look dirty and I'm not really sure how to get those fingerprints off. If that's something that matters to you, be mindful of where you're touching it so that you don't get the oils from your skin onto your suncatcher. Yeah, that's everything that I had for shooting. I'm going to show you a few quick edits. Basically, how you can boost your colors to really show off those rainbows best in the next section. 4. Lightroom Edit: Really quickly, I wanted to take you through an edit so that you can really make your rainbow portraits stand out and be super striking. I'm going to be editing with Adobe Lightroom classic Cc, which is available through any of the Creative Cloud plans on Adobe's website. I personally have the all plan, but I used to have just the photography plan where you would get Lightroom and Photoshop and it was perfect. Right here we are in the library tab this is library view, it has all my photos. I'm going to go ahead and edit this one. I'm going to go and click over into the Develop tab. Right now, I have done two things. I've adjusted the crop. As you can see, it used to be a tall portrait mode photo, and I went ahead and changed it to the 16 by 9 Aspect, so it would work well for this video. Then in this little spot hill tool I've gone through and adjusted any blemishes. If you want to adjust a blemish, you go ahead and adjust your circle to be the right size to fit right over the spot that you want to fix. You click on it and it's going to automatically sample a spot nearby. I'm going to just drag this and choose my own spot right there and then once you're happy with how that looks, you go ahead to click and close that window. Right now we are at our straight out of camera view. I haven't done any edits. I went ahead and reset all the sliders. Looking at this, I feel like it's pretty evenly exposed, but I would love to see those colors pop a bit more. I'm going to start with our Contrast slider and I'm going to bump it up. This is going to deepen the darks and brighten the lights. I'm going to increase my shadows since the darks got very dark there. I want to make sure I have some information. I'm going to bring the blacks down and the whites up a little bit. This is just the standard edits that I like to do to my images. Then as you can see in some of these brighter spots, they almost turn to white. I'm going to bring my highlights down just a little. This is going to preserve the color in those super bright areas. Next, I want to adjust the vibrance and saturation. I play with both of these interchangeably, but I tend to like the vibrance lighter better because it produces more natural colors. I'm going to bring this one up a little bit. For the sake of this photo we are going to use the saturation as well. Now I can see the colors that I have available here. I'm looking at her hair and it's looking orangey. I know her hair is a little lighter and blonde or than that. I'm going to adjust the temperature slider. Rather than clicking this and dragging, I'm going to hover over the number, click and drag. This is just going to go a little slower and be more precise. I feel like I like the blue and yellow match there, but it made her skin look pink. I'm going to adjust the tint as well and drag it down and more toward the greens. Then those are so subtle, I like to tip back into my history and see what I had before and what I have now. Perfect. I feel like that did take out a lot of those warm tones that are probably being thrown in from the wood floor that's nearby where we were shooting. Next up I want to come down into my tone curve. I have a lot of darkness in this photo and I want to bring that up a little bit. I'm going to increase the dark slider, just bringing it to the right. That's going to add a little bit more brightness to this shot. Then I want to go through and fine tune these colors so I'm going to come to my HSL Color Slider and make sure I have Saturation ticked. Then I'm going to pick through. I like this blue color, but I want to make it a little more vibrant. I'm going drag up the aqua slider and the blue slider just a little bit. If we go too much, it's going to look really fake so we want to just do very slow, careful edits and then I want to do some green as well. Then maybe a little bit into my purples and magentas. Let me go back in the history and show you what we did here. This is before I adjusted my saturation in the HSL slider and then this is after. It just added a little bit more punch to that color there. Then before we wrap up with this shot, I want to go down into the detail drawer and adjust the sharpening. I like to pull a sharpening up about halfway. You can zoom into the shot if you want to get a really close look at this, right now, it looks a little too harsh. I'm going to bring that sharpening back down and then I'm also going to adjust the masking. I'm going to click and drag while I have the option key held down so that it's just applying the sharpening to the edges. Anything that's white is getting sharpened, then that is good. Now we still have our creamy smoothness on the skin. But the things that I want sharpen are like her eyelashes and her glasses are very, very sharp. Next I want to do some noise reduction. If we look over in the dark spots of the photo, it's hard to tell, but you can see a lot of this grainy noise and pixelation. I'm just going to bring my noise reduction up on the luminance slider and on the color slider. Then that just smooth it out so it's a little bit more buttery and clean. Now that I am happy with my image, I'm going to go ahead and right-click it down here in my Timeline, I'm going to go to Export putting into subfolder rainbow. I'm going to call it a Vibrant Start Number 1. I like to use custom name and sequence. This just helps me stay organized. I export my files anytime I'm using for Instagram or the web, I'm an export as a JPEG and sRGB. I never use any of the other ones for anything that I do, I always use sRGB. I limit my file size to 1800 K. That's the max that the Skillshare project uploader lets you use. I just do this to make my life easier. I resize to fit along the long edge. That's this long edge here. I change it to 2500 pixels and I leave the resolution at 240. I do a little bit about put sharpening. I sharpen for screen in the standard amount and then leave everything else the same. I can change my export to show in Finder and then when I hit export, it's going to prep my file for me and drop it into a folder so that I can use it wherever I need. Here is our image. I'll edit it and then so that is just my quick Lightroom edit for you. If you're not currently using Lightroom, I highly recommend it. I know it can be a little bit expensive, but they have student plans on their website that you can take advantage of and it's a really, really great deal. Thanks so much for watching. 5. Final Thoughts: That's everything. Thanks so much for taking my class. I hope that you enjoyed it. If you're having problems with your sun capture, things aren't working now, it's getting frustrating, please, please, please leave a comment. Let me help you work through if you're having issues. If not, if you're just having a wonderful time, feel free to share your project in the project section, I would love to see your rainbow portraits or rainbows on your plan, so your cat, whatever you want to do. So feel free to tag me on Instagram if you want to share there so I can come see. I'll leave you a line, my handle is just tabithapark. If you have never seen any of my other classes before, I have a whole bunch here on Skillshare that are anywhere from creating your own backdrops for better product photography to bringing motion in your portraits, the self-portraits class. I've got a ton of different options back at my profiles. Thank you so much for watching. See you next time.