Have you ever wondered why there are some photos that just seem really special compared to others? Like there’s some sort of magic when you look at them? The truth is, there isn’t any magic involved when taking beautiful photos.
Rather, professional photographers use the science of good lighting to make really stunning photos. This explains why beginner photographers are encouraged to learn about the different types of lighting in photography and how to use them during their first photography lesson.
If you have a good camera, you can practice with the different types of lighting in photography to capture perfect shots. That said, here are the different lighting types you should know about:
Let’s start with the most basic photography lighting – direct sunlight. This is the type of lighting wherein the sun directly touches your subject. That said, the sun is the only light source used.
The advantage of using this type of lighting is that it allows you to really capture the details of the subject since light is shining directly at it. It’s the most ideal type of lighting for basic photography, usually for people in ads and graphic posters.
The disadvantage is that your photo might end up too dark if you didn’t get the best angle. Also, direct sunlight won’t give you those really artistic photos. With basic lighting, you can get a good photograph, but nothing really that special.
Side lighting is basically sunlight that comes from the side, thus the name. It usually gives your object contrast in the sense that half of it will be dark while the other half has light. As a result, it creates a great dimension of photography as long as you know how to use it.
It’s capable of creating dramatic photographs, usually for artistic purposes. It’s usually the type of lighting used for taking pictures of architecture or models in side view. It can put more emotion into the photograph due to the shadows that it creates.
The disadvantage of side lighting is that there is a possibility of too much contrast. This means that the dark area might overshadow the lighted area, vice versa. If the contrast is a bit too heavy, then the photo will be rather unattractive.
Have you ever seen photographs featuring silhouettes of couples with the sunset behind them? Or maybe a picture of the silhouette of a hiker with sunset facing the camera? That’s exactly what back lighting is, the type of lighting emitted when the sun is located at the back of your subject.
The great thing about back lighting is that you can create really dramatic photos in which your subject kind of becomes a shadow. Your subject will still be the primary focus of the photograph, although the lighting will have a much more significant place in the overall scenery by showcasing the silhouettes of your subjects instead of their actual portraits.
The downside here is that it doesn’t give off too much detail. Unlike side and front lighting, back lighting turns your entire subject dark, thereby hiding any details. Rather, the light source and shadows would be the center attractions.
The three types of lighting that we’ve discussed above are natural lighting solutions that you can try out with your photographs. We call them natural light solutions as they come directly from the sun which is a natural source of light.
In the event that there is no sunlight or if you want to have your own light that you can manipulate, then you have the choice to use artificial light instead. Artificial lights refer to those studio lamps that you would usually see in photography studios used for taking pictures of people or products.
The advantage of this type of lighting is that you can control it however you want, allowing you to get the most optimal angle for your photos. With sunlight, you will need to adjust the angle of your camera. Meanwhile, with spotlights and studio lamps, you can adjust the light itself for that optimal shooting angle.
Unfortunately, this kind of lighting makes it hard to get those dramatic shots that you can usually get with natural sunlight. It can give a great, high-quality photo with a lot of details, but nothing beats natural sunlight if you’re looking for a photo with a lot of emotion.
Also, sunlight is still the best light for outdoor photography in case you want to take pictures of scenery, buildings, people, or other objects outside.
Strobe lighting is a type of artificial lighting that allows you to provide temporary lighting right when you snap your picture. You can think of it as the flash feature of a camera but on a bigger scale and on a specific angle. The strobe light is connected to your camera, so whenever you press your camera’s button, the strobe light will go off along with it.
The most wonderful thing about strobe lighting is that it can prevent any blurring as the light only comes when the camera clicks. Also, it is able to capture the subject at its best due to a burst of high-power lighting that only lasts for a second or two.
Another great thing about strobe lighting is that it can also block off other kinds of light. Even if your room is already filled with light, the strobe lighting will block other light and only give lighting to the subject.
Unfortunately, using this kind of light is that you won’t be able to see what the picture will look like until the picture comes out. Since the light only turns on when you click the camera, you won’t be able to perfectly prepare to take the photo. You’ll probably have to experiment with the strobe lighting a bit to get the best picture.
The funny thing about moonlight is that it can be considered a “sunlight at night” if you think about it. However, the difference is that it captures photos better in dark sceneries at night. If you want to take photos of the city or nature at night, using the moonlight is a great way to do so.
The great thing about using moonlight is that it gives your photo a rather mystical air to it. Compared to sunlight which features high contrasting shadows or silhouette forming characteristics, moonlight casts soft shadows that look magical in the night. Moonlight is also very versatile in the sense that it can be mixed with artificial lights to create even more magical effects.
Of course, the downside of using moonlight is that it radiates a lot. Therefore, you’ll be seeing a lot of stray light in your photo if you shoot directly at the moon. Another major downside is that you won’t be able to shoot that many stars since the moonlight blocks off the stars from the camera.
How to Mix Lighting
Now that you know the different types of lighting in photography, you might be asking yourself if it’s possible to mix some of the lighting styles to come up with a whole new type of photo. The answer is yes! In fact, there are a lot of professional photographers who mix various kinds of lighting styles in order to get the best effects for their photography.
For instance, you can use the camera flash against direct sunlight to give you an even more detailed photograph. Another way to mix lighting is to have both side light and back light together in order to get a nicer silhouette view with the dramatic lighting of side lights.
You may also use both continuous artificial lights and strobe lights together to get stronger lighting. The possibilities are all endless, and it will often boil down to how creative and imaginative you can get.
By knowing the various types of lighting used in photography, you can now start practicing with your camera. It is recommended that you start off with natural light from sunlight as it’s the type of lighting which is easiest to get used to. All you need to do is angle your camera in various places where the sunlight hits in order to get your desired photo.
Once you have already mastered natural light, you may want to try out artificial light next. The most basic type of artificial light you can use is the camera flash that pretty much any camera has. You can experiment a bit with it as your strobe light, then you use studio lamps for your artificial light. Also, you can use moonlight with pretty much any artificial light available.
When you’ve already gotten the hang of using different types of lights, you can mix them a bit and experiment in order to get the best lighting for your subject. You can mix both artificial and natural light together in order to get the best of both worlds, or in this case, all worlds.