Lighting Tips for Your Photographs

When it comes to professional looking photographs, there’s much to be said about lighting. Good lighting is one of the fundamental skills that every photographer must learn – whether they’re shooting products and fashion models in a studio or snapping photos at an event.

The right lighting can help set the mood of your images and will help you construct your composition. Playing with shadows will help you highlight certain parts of your images and help you direct the viewer’s eye.

Whether you’re shooting portraits or candids, presenting your subject matter in the “best light” can really make a difference to your portfolio. Here are some of the fundamentals of lighting for taking photos at any occasion:

Three point lighting – when it comes to portrait photography, professionals all talk about “3-point lighting”. When lighting up your subject, you should consider three sources of light:

Key light – this is your primary light source that will be seen as the most visible light source in your image.

Fill light – the main purpose of this softer light is to lessen the severity of shadows and give some more gradient variations. Fill lights are usually no more than half as bright as the key light. You can also use reflectors to try and direct light towards your subject to minimise the appearance of shadows.

Rim light – the rim light is also known as the backlight and is placed behind the subject. This helps to create a “highlighting” effect around your subject to make him or her stand out from the background.

Rethink your flash – the built in flash unit in your DSLR camera can be handy tool, if you use it properly. Instead of using it as a source of illumination in dark scenarios (which can lead to washed out skin tones) think of your flash as a “fill in” that will help bring out the features of your subject in ambient lighting. Think of your flash as a highlighting tool. Meanwhile, an external flash will be an invaluable addition to your collection of camera accessories.

Understand the environment – unless you’re in a controlled studio situation, you will usually have to account for and work with the existing lighting of your environment. When shooting outdoors bright daylight will be most effective as a key light, so try and face your subject towards the sun. Otherwise, a cloudy or overcast day will give you ample shadow free fill light and allow you to illuminate your subject from any direction.