Photography Lighting Techniques

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photography lighting

"Fire on the Bridge" captured by Jim Worrall (Click Image to See More From Jim Worrall)

Photography is about light, and in fact, it can be defined as recording the light. Lighting is also one of the hardest things to get right in a photograph. To shoot images that stands out of the crowd, an understanding the light source is critical.

Photography lighting plays the major role to capture colors as well as to reveal form and texture in an image. Examining “day light” is a great way to understand certain characteristics of light: the hardness or the softness of the source, direction of light and visible colors.

Hardness or softness of the light: Hard light (direct light) produces vivid colors that stand out and creates harsh shadows. Soft light (diffused light) produces more pastel tones and softens details.

Direction of light: Moving the light source around a subject or object either add or take away detail.

Color: Photographs tend to lead most viewers towards certain feelings; For example softer colors often create calmer mood. The strength and the angle of the light source determine if you will have vivid or softer colors.

Below you will find five tips that will explore the light source and its characteristics.

First: Understand color temperature

Color temperature is the actual colors that human eye can see. Color temperature is a characteristic of visible light. It is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). Yellow to red are called warm colors and have lower temperatures ie: (2,700-3,000 K).Cool colors like blue and white have higher temperatures.

Second: Examine natural light

The sun is the source of all daylight. Outdoor lighting offers all kind of light, coming from various directions. Shooting during noon or later in the day will allow you to capture different tones, colors, and light effects.

  • As a freelance photographer don’t miss early morning hours. It is the best time of the day when you can capture great tones.
  • The sun brings out blue hues in the morning hours and creates a crisp effect.
  • Closer to noon or later in the day you will find softer colors and diffused light (Soft Light). When light is distributed evenly you will have more natural colors. Neutral colors can take away some of the definition or harsh details.
techniques for using light

"drawing you" captured by Lena Bulgakova (Click Image to See More From Lena Bulgakova)

  • Noon on the other hand, creates harsh light (Hard Light) and produces images with shadows.
  • Afternoon offers warmer tones with reds and yellows.
  • Near sunrise or sunset, you will often get flattering light.
  • Sunset brings out oranges or pink tones when photographers capture great colors.
Third: Be aware of the hardness or softness of the light source

The brightest time of the day produces a “hard light” source. For example images taken around noon have strong colors that stand out. This type of light is used for contrast as it creates more definition and more shadow.

An overcast day reflects less light and produces diffused “soft light”. It will spread the light evenly and does not cast strong shadows.

Fourth: Be aware of the direction of the light

When you shoot same subject from different angles you either add or remove shadows on both the subject and the object. This is also true if you move your light source around your subject. Of course it is easier to move the light source in a studio environment, but keep in mind that if you shoot different times of the day you will get the same effect.

light direction in photography

"museum" captured by abeer (click image to see more from abeer)

Fifth: Use flash to create interesting effects

Flash can be a great addition in any kind of light when you need to fill in shadows.

Using flash in outdoors is an effective way of recording actual colors and more of the detail in a scene. For example if you have a moving subject in front of a colorful sunset you can set you flash mode to “Slow Sync” and get all the details.

Photography is an art that needs technique and practice. Lighting is a major part of photography and when you use the “natural light” to your advantage you will definitely add to your photography.

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  1. bycostello says:

    “Photography is an art that needs technique and practice”… and then practice some more!!!….

  2. This article lacks examples, and was very generic, I was not able to find any technique exactly.

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