Photography Lighting Techniques

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 stand out from the crowd, understanding the light source is critical.

photo lighting

Photo captured by Johannes Plenio

Photography lighting plays a major role in capturing colors as well as in revealing form and texture in an image. Examining daylight 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 it 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 adds or takes away detail.

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

Below are five tips that explore the light source and its characteristics.

1. Understand color temperature

Color temperature is the actual colors that the 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 (i.e., 2,700-3,000 K). Cool colors like blue and white have higher temperatures.

2. Examine natural light

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

  • Don’t miss the early morning hours. That’s the best time of the day to capture great tones.
  • The sun brings out blue hues in the morning hours and creates a crisp effect.
  • On a cloudy day you will find softer colors and diffused light (soft light). When light is distributed evenly you get more natural colors. Neutral colors can take away some of the definition or harsh details.
  • Noon creates harsh light (hard light) and produces images with shadows.
  • Afternoon offers warmer tones with reds and yellows.
  • Around sunrise or sunset, you will often get flattering light.
  • Sunsets put out oranges or pink tones.

3. 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 shadow.

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

4. Be aware of the direction of the light

When you shoot the 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 at different times of the day, you will get the same effect.

ways of photography lighting

Photo by Vandan Desai; ISO 200, f/8.0, 1/30-second exposure.

5. 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 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 your flash mode to slow sync and get all the details.

Photography is an art that requires good technique and practice. Lighting is a major part of photography, and when you use the natural light to your advantage you definitely add to your photography.

About the Author:
Article written by Zoe Shaw from digitalphotoworks. She is a computer programmer and graphic designer.

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One response to “Photography Lighting Techniques”

  1. bycostello says:

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

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