Colleen Maher (L) and Danny Kane pose for their prom pictures in Chappaqua, N. Y. prior to departing for the Horace Greeley High School prom festivities (© Michael Maher).
How do you take the best possible prom photo? Proms are an important event in a teenager’s life, so you want the picture to be outstanding and spur fond memories in future years. It is a lot of pressure for a parent to do a stellar job of shooting the prom picture, which is why some hire professional photographers to do it. There are really only two things that matter in a prom picture – the people’s faces and their dress clothes. Capture happy expressions and show off the clothing, and you’ll have a great photo that the participants will cherish forever. Therefore, when it came time to photograph my own daughter and her prom date, I made sure it was well lit by using a technique called rim lighting. With the sun high in the sky behind the subjects, I positioned the two prom-goers against a dark background, so a halo of light surrounded their heads and well-dressed torsos. Because the sun was shining from behind, and not on their faces, I could show the joy and excitement in their expressions, which I repeatedly reminded them to display, while I took many pictures. As a father, I was delighted and relieved we managed such an outstanding prom photo. Rim lighting does result in slightly duller colors than if the sun shines from the front, but the advantage is beautiful highlighting and clear facial expressions. This technique also works well for close-up facial portraits.
1) Rim lighting is a superb lighting technique for portraits.
2) Keep the sun behind your subject, high in the sky, and line up your picture against a dark background.
3) The result is a halo of light around your subject’s head and torso, with a clear view of the facial expression.