Amateur photographers are often wrapped up in lenses, shutter speed, and photoshop before they understand the most fundamental and important component of their craft... LIGHTING. Here's a quick crash course you should read before you invest in a photography lighting kit.


Key Terminology

Before you dig into the details of the different types of photographic light, it’s important to understand what exactly photographers are talking about when they say an image is “high contrast” or “overly exposed”:


  • Exposure is the overall brightness or darkness of a scene as it relates to your image.
  • Highlight is the brightest point of an image. This is typically the reflective surface of the subject or angles facing the light source.
  • Shadow is the darkest point of an image. These are typically non-reflective surfaces or angles not facing the light source.
  • Quality is how focused or diffused the light is. In addition to being light or dark, light can also be soft or hard. 
  • Contrast is the measurement of the difference between the highlights and shadows within an image.
  • Color in photography refers to the color of the light in an image. Sunlight varies in color and is measured in degrees Kelvin. The color of daylight is 5500K and is comparable to light on an overcast day.
  • Direction is where the light is coming from. Light may be hard or soft, but it travels in a straight line. How photographers direct or reflect the light determines if a subject is Front Lit, Back Lit, or Side Lit.


        The Four Types of Photographic Light

        Photographic light falls under four main categories. Though multiple types of light can appear in one image, each type of light in different combinations creates the mood of your image. Hard light is stark and intense. Soft light is dreamy, gauzy, and romantic. Reflective light is edgy and dramatic. Transmitted light is epic, eye-catching, and bold. Learning what they are and how to create them is how you set the mood for your image. 


        1. Hard Light:

        When we think of light we think of either the sun or a light bulb. Both are great examples of "hard light". The sun on a clear day will cast a strong shadow off any object it strikes. A bare bulb will do the same, but if you wrap a lampshade around the bulb or put a cloud in front of the sun, the light is diffused.

        Example of Hard Light, Softbox Lighting


        2. Soft Light:

        When you diffuse a light source you create ‘soft light,’ where the shadows fade or disappear. The sun and the bare bulb are both small light sources, but if you put a diffuser in front of them you convert them into a large light source, emitting "soft light".           

        Example of Soft Light, Softbox Lighting


        3. Reflected Light:

        Reflected light is light that bounces off any other surface and back onto the subject. For example, when standing in the shade light is reflected from nearby surfaces onto you. You may not be able to see the light source, but you are still illuminated. Photographers use reflectors to change the direction of light and have more control over lighting in their images.

        Example Reflected Light, Softbox Lighting


        4. Transmitted Light:

        Transmitted light simply means that the light source is visible in the image. For example, a picture of the sunset or a city at night.

        Example of Transmitted Light, Softbox Lighting



        TOP 6 TIPS!

        1. Front lighting de-emphasizes texture while lighting from the side, above, or below emphasizes it.
        2. Use a diffuser to soften, or broaden, your light source. A broad light source not only reduces shadows and contrast, it also suppresses texture.
          3. When shooting outdoors, never shoot during midday when you have direct sun overhead. Instead, shoot during the “magic hours” of dawn and twilight for a naturally diffused light with high contrast and incredible color.
            4. When adjusting the color of a RAW photo with the color slider, moving the slider to a lower number makes images appear cooler, while a higher number makes images appear warmer.
              5. Aim a narrow, hard light at a broad, matte surface, such as a wall, ceiling, or matte reflector and it will reflect and diffuse, creating a soft but focused illuminating effect.
                6. Maintain control of your light output (indoors or outdoors). Invest in a softbox lighting kit or use diffuser panels to manipulate the light as much as you can.

                Here's what we recommend if you're just getting started!

                LED-280R KIT:

                LED photography lighting kit

                1 comment

                • This is great… THANK YOU! :)


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