There’s something about good lighting that makes you want to take out your camera and take a photo. The golden hour is famous for a reason. Known as the last hour before sunset, the golden hour is said to be the perfect time to take photographs because it captures the best natural lighting in the day. But why, exactly, is photography lighting important? Before diving into all that, let’s look into some technical terms.
Photography Lighting Terms You Need to Know
- Product photography lighting: This type of lighting is used to create high-quality product photos in the best light possible to attract customers. As a subset of studio photography, the impact of shadows and highlights on the product via lighting placement is one of the key decisions to be made in product photography lighting.
- Natural light: Much of natural lighting would depend on the angle of the sun. For example, if it’s noon and the sun is directly above, then your product would have the least shadows in the photo. If, however, you want less contrast, then opt to shoot when it’s cloudier outside. You can choose to take pictures at off-peak hours when the sun’s rays are not as harsh for softer photography lighting.
- Front light (aka flat light): If you want your photo to have fewer shadows, then front light photography is the way to go. Since this means that the light source is directly in front of your subject, then the light will spread more evenly across your photo.
- Backlight: As opposed to front light, where the light source is in front of the subject, a backlight is when it is behind it. This type of photography is widely used for shadow play and can create amazing silhouettes. However, don’t expect to see much of the details in your subject.
- Soft light: Like the name suggests, soft photography lighting has a diffused light effect on your photo. This can be done using a diffusion panel between the light source and the object you want to take a photo of. Sometimes, curtains can also be used to create the same effect.
- Hard light: As opposed to soft photography lighting, hard light is when your light source is directly pointed toward your subject and creates a high contrast effect. This style of photography lighting can be done using a spotlight.
- Rim light: Rim light is mostly used when you want to emphasize the difference between your subject and the background. To do this, put your light source above and behind your subject. A rim should appear that will make your subject appear to have a glowing outline.
- Loop lighting: This is the best photographic lighting used for portraits because loop lighting is the most universally flattering across all lighting styles. The loop refers to the shadow created down and around the side of the nose, neck, and under the chin. In short, the angle in which your subject is positioned is essential to maximize the effect of loop lighting.
- Broad lighting: Broad lighting is referred to the well-lit part of the face positioned toward the camera. This type of photography lighting is often used for graduation photos because it can be used to manipulate the face of the subject to make it look fuller.
- Short lighting: The opposite of broad lighting, poor lighting technique is used to thin out the face. This is because, in this technique, the side of the face that is closest to the camera is in the shadow.
- Butterfly lighting: Usually seen in glamour shots and headshots, this also makes use of shadows to create a butterfly effect on your subject’s face. This is a good technique to use when you want to highlight certain facial features.
- Split lighting: Split lighting is when a straight line is seen at the center of your subjects’ face, parting the two halves where one side is lit and the other is in the shadows. This effect is created when the light hits your model at a 90-degree angle.
- Rembrandt lighting: Named after the painter Rembrandt, this type of photography lighting is similar to split lighting. However, the side of the face that is in the shadow has a triangle of light under the eye. If you want to make a three-dimensional-looking photograph, this lighting is the way to go.
What Is the Nature of Light Photography?
In other words, what is the importance of light in photography? Just like how light plays an important part in nature and the world, light is the foundation of a good photograph. A photo is, in the simplest sense, the linear transmittance of light. Without it, we won’t even be able to see what the photo depicts without light.
Let’s get geeky for a moment and look into the science of light. You should know that light has a dual nature of a particle and a wave. As a particle, this means that it cannot further be dissected into a smaller unit. As a wave, it simply means it behaves in a wave-like motion. While light photography ideas are a dime a dozen on the internet, as professional photographers with your own websites or those who just take up photography as a hobby, knowing the science helps you know more about how light behaves and how you can use it to your advantage when taking a good photograph.
How to Get Good Lighting for Photos
It’s one thing to know the technical aspect of photography lighting, but another to put it into practice. To help you get good lighting, here are some tips below:
- Use a broad light source: The broader the light source, the softer your photograph will look. By broadening the light source, you will be able to cast fewer shadows and produce an effect that is flattering for portraits in particular. With that being said, know the effect you want to go for in your photos and use broad or short liking to suit your aesthetic the best.
- Position your light source closer to your subject: This way, you can get a good grasp on the details of your subject in the photo. The nearer your light source is, the easier the light falls on your subject. The subject will also seem broadened, and the light source can illuminate your subject evenly.
- Use natural lighting as much as possible: If you’re a fan of nature photos, then using natural lighting as much as possible. Take advantage of the day’s golden hours (either sunrise or sunset) and get a good dose of vitamin D in the process.
- Put your product in context: When choosing the best lighting for your photo, it’s important to know what your prospective customers are looking for. Try to see the end image from their perspective. For example, if the photo is for an online catalogue, then the use of shadows might not be necessary. Likewise, a clear image of the details of your product should be seen with ease. Besides, they won’t be able to purchase something if they can’t see what it is, right?
- Use shadows to make your photo look three-dimensional: Some of the best photographers like to use shadow play in their photos, and for a good reason. The use of silhouettes always makes the picture more dramatic and interesting.
- Know what color temperature to use: Did you know that even if the light looks white, it actually has colors? That’s where color temperature comes in. Measured in Kelvin (K) units, the higher the number, the colder your photo appears to be. Meanwhile, a lower Kelvin unit signifies a warmer image. Depending on the effect you want your photo to have, adjust the color temperature accordingly.
- Take photography lighting lessons: The good news is you can take photography lessons online these days. Sure, you would have to carve out time to do it, but learning the craft as much as possible will make your photos stand out from the rest. Taking up photography lessons also challenges your existing knowledge about the art, and it will also make you feel a sense of achievement when you complete the classes.
- Practice as much as possible: As they say, practice makes perfect. The more you practice, the better you can take good photographs. You would know what lighting tools to use best when you attempt to take as many photos as possible. You also shouldn’t just practice on a whim, but be mindful and take deliberate images, experimenting with different mediums and angles with the deliberate intention to get better at your craft.
Photography Website Examples
Now that you know the foundation of photography lighting, why not kick it up a notch and create your own photography website using Strikingly, a web builder that can launch your website in minutes. Strikingly is used by hundreds of professional photographers and hobbyists alike, and below are some examples of them:
- Paul Zheng
Image taken from Paul Zheng’s website
- Zinzi Colonna
Image taken from Zinzi Colonna’s website
- The Photographic Voice
Image taken from The Photographic Voice’s website
- MB Visuals
Image taken from MB Visual’s website
If you want to take great photographs, don’t underestimate the power of good lighting. Taking the time to educate yourself on the best use of lighting can make all the difference in your images, and you’ll find yourself mastering your craft in no time.