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How to Get the Perfect Lighting for Your Photos Every Time

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

Lighting plays a huge role in your photos. If a photo is over or underexposed, it’s practically useless. If the discrepancy is not too severe, you may be able to correct in in editing, but there are no guarantees.

Having the right lighting equipment will help you get great shots, but it’s also important to understand how lighting works. This article will provide some tips that will allow you to get great photos every time.

The Closer the Subject the Softer the Light

You may think that taking the subject away from the light makes the light softer, but the opposite is true.

When a subject is close to the light, the light disperses over them so it’s not as harsh. When the light is farther away, it is directed at the subject to produce a harder effect.

If your light seems too bright, try bringing it closer, not further away.

Diffusion Softens Light

Just like the clouds diffuse the sun to soften light, certain materials can be used to reduce the glare of your studio lights. A translucent, white fabric or strobe will do the trick in the studio. If you are outside, try using a while scrim or a light tent.

Bouncing light will also diffuse it. So instead of shining your light directly on your subject, shine it on an object that will reflect it such as aluminum foil or cardboard. You may have to do some repositioning to get the light to fall on your subject just right, but after a few adjustments, you’ll find your sweet spot.

The Farther the Light Source the More it Falls Off

Earlier we talked about how light can get more intense at it moves from the subject. This is true, but if you move it too far away, it can get to a point where it doesn’t illuminate the subject at all. As this happens, it can also cause shadows to fall across the subject. If this occurs, you may need additional light to fill in the shadows.

The falloff that occurs as light moves away from your subject will also affect the subject’s relationship to the background.

If your subject is brightly lit, the background will appear darker. For a more uniform look, move the subject away from the light and towards the background.

Front Lighting and Texture Have an Inverse Relationship

You may think that strong front lighting will show everything. But the truth is, front lighting washes things out minimizing texture.

So if you’re taking a picture of a person and want to minimize their wrinkles, front lighting is the way to go. If you’re taking a picture of rocks and want to emphasize their texture, side lighting is a better choice.

Shadows Produce a Dramatic Effect

Shadows emphasize volume to produce a dramatic effect. Lighting from the side, above or below will bring out optimal shadows that work well in still life, landscape and product photography. For true “Hollywood lighting” position lights above and slightly to the side of the subject making sure not to cause any unsightly shadows to appear.

Backlight Works as Diffused Lighting

Backlighting will create a silhouette effect. However, if you don’t use some amount of front lighting, your image will just look black. To get the perfect effect, increase the exposure on your camera. This will minimize texture and features while still capturing shape.

Light Has Color

When taking a picture, the light will add color to the photo that may not be apparent to the human eye. However, once you get the shot, it will show up prominently, and it won’t always produce the effect you are after.

To minimize unwanted contrasts, take preventative measures like setting your camera to ‘cloudy’ on sunny days. This will increase the chances of you getting shots you are happy with.

Lighting is one of the most important elements in your photos. The tips in this article will help you use light effectively, so you get great shots every time. What lighting tips would you like to share?

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