lighting in photography

Composition and lighting in photography are the two most important things to master when you are discovering how to take better digital pictures.  Give yourself a little lesson in lighting.

Lighting in Photography from Direct Flash

This is not likely to be an exciting activity unless you are a lighting geek, but you will advance your photography skills if you give it a try.

Way before digital photography existed, when photography was a beginning art, when the equipment and processes were crude and undeveloped, master photographers were those who understood composition and lighting.

This subject that I chose to use in this lighting lesson may seem a bit boring, but stay with me here for a minute.

Most lighting lessons use attractive models or subjects.

Although this may seem appealing at first, we can get distracted by the subject matter itself and miss the primary lesson.

I shot these three photos of the same section of the cinder block wall in my basement, each with my flash aimed in a different direction.

We can compare the effect of changing the direction of the light and how it impacts how the direction of the small shadow areas.

Sometimes is easier to observe the lighting and how it portrays a simple and boring subject.

Lighting provide from Canon 580 EX Speedlite Flash

These three photos were all taken with a Canon 580 speedlite, mounted on the hot shoe of my Canon 5D DSLR.

I added a drop shadow to each photo afterward in Photoshop so that you could see them better against the white background of this web site.

Lighting in Photography from Side-bounced Flash

The top photo was take with my flash unit mounted on top of the camera and pointing directly at the wall.

This very flat lighting with very limited shadowing. You can barely make out the divisions between the individual blocks and very little of the texture of the blocks is brought out.

Essential there are no significant shadows to bring out any of the texture in the concrete blocks.

In the middle photo to the right, I moved closer to a side wall and the flash head was rotated toward the wall.

This bounced light hit my subject from the side, brings out the texture and it highlights the vertical divisions between the blocks.

Since I was so close to the side wall, the light source is mostly from the wall , but also some from the low ceiling as well.

Notice now that the horizontal divisions between the blocks are emphasized.

This is why it's so important to "see the light" while taking photos when possible or take a quick peak at your LCD screen if you can.

Lighting in Photography from ceiling-bounced Flash

In the bottom photo, the Canon 580 speedlight was aimed up to produce a ceiling bounce light.  The shadows are now below the bumps and ridges in the wall.

Practice observing the direction of the light. Notice how it is hitting your subject.

What is being revealed and what is being emphasized?

You can then make changes in your camera angle, perspective or modify the light in some manner.

It's a skill that I try to improve on always, Even when I am not taking photographs, I observe lighting conditions.

Lighting in photography is the one of the most important techniques you can study to improve your photography.

I've written dozens of articles related to many ways about modifying the light.

Please feel free to explore and take advantage of the other lighting lessons and digital photo tips on my sight.

Photo Lighting - Mannequin. Here is another article where I changed direction of the photo's lighting and got dramatically different portraits-this time using a mannequin as my subject matter.

Photography Lighting Equipment.  There are 4 main categories of characteristics to consider when looking at added lighting equipment.  The include how complicated, the poser source, the duration and the portability of lighting equipment.

Here are the three different lighting set-ups below, side by side to emphasize how important photography lighting is.

the three lighting in photography samples - side by side comparison

Notice the lack of directional shadows with direct flash
The Flash as Aimed 90 Degrees to the right to give Side Bounce Lighting.  The vertical lines are emphasized.
The flash was aimed at the white ceiling to give an overhead bounce lighting.  The horizontal lines are emphasized.

reviews of various lighting set-ups:

Here's a little suggestion. Give yourself a lighting in photography assignment. Find a simple subject and try to light it with your flash using a few different directions.

Have fun with it. In addition to reading about lighting in photography, experimenting and practicing your lighting techniques gives you the chance for hands-on learning.  

We all have a different modality for learning.  Some learn better by reading, some by hearing and others by doing.

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