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The Basics of Lighting

What is lighting?  No more than an afterthought when going through your day.  You probably don’t stop yourself when eating lunch to admire pristine lighting conditions.  Well, you might if you’re a photographer.  In this post we’ll go over a bit of information on general lighting conditions and things to keep in the back of your head.


We can begin broadly with ambient lighting.  Ambient lighting is often the most significant and if you are outside of a studio setting, can be the only source of light.


When having to use ambient light, it’s important to consider the orientation of yourself and the subject.  Its up to you to move the subject in any manner that can let you achieve your desired level of light.    This is what you most likely have to deal with in everyday environments.  This is also what most people have to deal with when composing their selfies and amateur photos.  The difference between an amateur and a professional begins with the ability to manipulate your subject matter in relation to yourself and the light source.

Natural Light with Accessories

As you become more and more experienced, look towards expanding your arsenal with light usage. Ambient light is important for the sheer volume of light that is provided, but the next step becomes using that light to your advantage.  You want to start to think about how to control your available ambient light.  This gives you a much bigger range to work with.  There’s some straightforward ways to impact ambient light.  If you are indoors, it may be as simple as shutting off a light or two.  Or you may want to step near the window.  Conversely, shutting all the windows and simply depending on internal light source



Soft Lighting with Backlight


Window Lighting

Something as simple as a diffuser or a reflector can be overwhelmingly effective tools to getting just the right photo.  A photographer that can successfully use ambient light to modify their subject matter is not a simple skill to acquire.  It takes a  lot of practice and fine tuning until you are able to go out in the field and be able to craft light around your subject matter.


Once you dive more and more into the depths of light, you have more tools available to perfectly craft your photos.  As you get better at controlling your ambient light, you might move on to using a flash.  As you add another source of light, it’s important that you remember that this new element will have to be implemented subtly.  Tiny hairs and out of place fibers on clothes can be magnified considerably with the addition of a flash.  It’s important to always be cognative about the amount of additional light you are adding as well as the intensity of said light.

Indoor- Flash Lighting-Hard

That being said, subtlety might not be something you are looking for.  With the availability of the flash, you now have the option of flooding your subject with light.  It’s important to be very conscious of this as it is easy to achieve over lighting  If your goal is to completely  light your subject, then a combination of both might be a good application here.  Some combination of ambient fill light and flash key lighting might a good choice.  It all comes down to what kind of theme or style of picture you want and what kind of application the pictures are for.


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