photography lighting techniques

Here are three quick photography lighting techniques that will help you when you are evaluating your photo's lighting.  They all can be used no matter what photography lighting equipment you are using.

1. The Squinting Technique

Our eyes and our powerful brains do a great job of viewing a scene and seeing both dark shadow and bright highlight areas with great detail. Digital cameras are not quite as good at capturing that same range of brightnesses.

A quick way to preview how a photograph will look is to squint your eyes as you look at your subject. It sounds a bit unusual, but with a little practice it works well.

Squinting will give you a quick view of the brightness levels of all of the objects in your photo. Generally, bright things are more emphasized than darker things in our scene. Our brains work in such a way that the bright areas are noticed first and are more dominant.

The squinting technique will help you see what may be emphasized. One good point for this one, you don't need a camera to practice.

2. Look at the Size and Shape of the Shadows

Photography Lighting Techniques - Rafael Nadal Shado Example

This technique is appropriate when you have a continuous light source like the sun, the sky or light from electrical lighting.

When you look at the characteristics of the shadows to tell what direction the light is coming from.

This action photo of superstar Rafael Nadal was taken late in the afternoon.

I noticed the long shadows from the sun, so I thought it would be fun to include them in my composition.

If I had walked around to the other side of the stadium, his shadow would have been blocked by his body.

If you want to get a little creative and have some fun try a day full of taking Shadow Photos.

Use the camera LCD screen for a quick check as a photography lighting technique

3. The take-a-quick-glance-at-your-LCD-screen method

When I was in photography school, one of professors would use a similar technique when our class would meet for a group critique of our photography.

He would show us the submitted prints for a very quick time frame, perhaps just 1/4 of a second.  You only get a brief first impression, an overall feeling of what the photo was about

I must admit it was annoying, but it really made you evaluate the lighting, the dark and light areas of a photograph as well as the overall composition.  It's not a bad technique to get used to if you practice it a few times.

resources related to photography lighting techniques

We only did Black and White Photography for the first year at photography school, but you can learn to see photography lighting even better when you are not distracted by any colors in your photo.

Photography Lighting Systems. There are a wide variety of photography lighting systems available for you to buy. Here are some thoughts on the pros and cons of each.

Photography Lighting Equipment.  This photography lighting techniques article covered existing light situations.  If you are interested in exploring 4 categories to consider when looking at adding lighting equipment to purchase read this.

How to Photography Glass.  Glassware lighting with an LCD flashlight.  Super simple way to get an infinite variety of lighting effects while seeing the results in real time.  Also includes a video showing the set-up used and 3 very different still photos  resulting from the photography lighting techniques used with the flashlight.

Happy Shooting!


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