7 Lighting Tips That Will Transform Your Work!

Every photographer started out without much focus on lighting; they relied on their camera and their “eye” alone, and shot with the little equipment and basic knowledge they had.

After a while they came to terms with the fact that lighting can be as important as camera quality; it can influence style, quality, and what a face looks like in a portrait.

This can be a stressful step for many of us. After all, lighting seems like an intimidating hurdle to jump in the world of photography. Here are some tips to keep in mind when approaching your work!

Here Are 7 Photography Lighting Tips You Should Live By.

1. Even “white” light has color!

Ever snap a photo and see colors that you didn’t notice when looking at the real scene?

Color temperature is a major factor to consider in the realm of lighting. Sometimes our
eyes fail to perceive colors that only digital sensors can pick up. This can lead to unforeseen issues in the color balance of your work.

Early morning tends to cast warm tones. Afternoon sunlight is often blue or teal. Any surface can reflect light and add its color to your shot, no matter how subtle. Adjust the white-balance control on your digital camera or editing software in order to take better control of the color temperature.

For film photography, choose your film rolls according to the scene, or compensate with filters.

2. Be careful with backlighting.

The only case in which the backlight of a subject would be the only light used would be if you decided to shoot in silhouette. Somebody standing outside will have sunlight falling on them; a person with their back to studio light or bright window will have light reflected onto them from the opposite wall.

In either case we have a strong backlight and a presumably weaker front light.

The fix for this scenario? Bump up that exposure in order to capture the light falling onto the subject.

Otherwise, your subject will have darkened features and be lined with bright, blurry light.

3. Front-lighting can also be tricky!

As a rule of thumb, lighting from the front de-emphasizes texture, while lighting from the side, above, or below emphasizes it.

For example, a client may be older and ask for a portrait that suppresses her wrinkles.

The photographer would keep the light source close to the axis of the lens in order to accomplish this.

A landscapist, however, might want strong side-lighting in order to emphasize the texture of mountains, rocks, or foliage.

4. Use shadows to add volume.

Three-dimensionality is essential to most photography pieces. Without shadows, the scene will appear flat, confined, and without a clear subject. A viewer wants to view a picture and have the sense of objects existing in a space, not object projected onto a flat surface.

Many street photographers struggle with three-dimensionality. Graffiti is a common subject in urban shots, but the photo would be uninteresting if it were limited to a flat wall. To compensate for this two-dimensionality, a street photographer might include a walking pedestrian who could cast a shadow through the scene.

For studio or still-life photography, lighting from the side, above, or below can cast deeper and stronger shadows. As a result, volume is added to the shot.

5. Take control of light fall-off.

A great way to coordinate your subject and the background is through light fall-off. Quite simply, light fall-off refers to the amount of light that hits the background instead of the subject. Light fall-off can be manipulated by how close the flash is to the subject.

If the flash is close to the subject, your background will be whiter and more detailed. Move the flash back from the subject, and your background will be darker and less detailed.

On harshly lit days, use your flash. Surprisingly, the shadows on your subject will be emphasized, but the background will not be affected. The light will have “fallen off” by then.


6. Use bouncing light for diffusion.

Diffusion is the scattering of light, which essentially softens the scene. A “real-life” example of this phenomenon can be seen right outside. An overcast sky causes the sun to diffuse through the clouds and scatter the light in many directions, acting as the largest softbox we have!

Let’s take this principle into the studio, shall we? Shooting a flash onto a reflective surface will send off a diffused light that can even out scenes with unbalanced lighting. The light will be scattered over a wider area and diffuse across the scene.

Matte surfaces—such as a wall, a ceiling, or matte reflector—will bounce light over the widest area. Metallic surfaces such as aluminum foil will focus the light but cause it to diffuse rather nicely. Mirrors, on the extreme end of the spectrum, will keep the light almost completely focused in the reflection.

Try this basic pack of light bounces found here on Amazon.

7. The broader the light source, the softer the light.

Broad sources hit the subject from more directions, which usually fills in shadows and better illuminates the scene. Use broad lighting is you want scenes with less shadows, reduced contrast, and suppressed texture.

And, of course, narrow sources lead to harder light. This might come in handy for more dramatic shots with stronger shadows and heightened contrast.

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