6 Types of Light Every Photographer Should Be Prepared For
- By: Grant Ordelheide
Light is one of the most important elements in any photograph. Whether a grand landscape or an intimate portrait, light can make or break an image. Lighting is something that must always be considered when taking a photo, so it is important to understand the different types of lighting and how to make the most out of each.
This may seem simple, but front lighting can often be a challenge to photograph. Front lighting occurs when the light source is directly behind the photographer. It can be challenging because no shadows are cast across the subject, causing the subject to appear almost two-dimensional. That lack of depth can be used to create a strong pattern across your image.
I always used to hear people say, “oh, don’t shoot into the sun”, but sometimes shooting into the sun could really give your image a unique look. Backlighting is when the light source is behind your subject. Many times if there are things in the air, such as fog, mist, or even pollution, you can create dramatic images with atmospheric perspective. Unlike front lighting, this will accentuate depth and draw the viewer in.
Side lighting occurs when the light source is coming from either side of the photographer. Side lighting helps to bring out textures and shapes that might otherwise go unnoticed with front or back lighting. It also helps to add depth and form to your subjects.
Reflected light is a non-direct, soft light that is usually bounced off of one surface to another. It is typically found in tight areas where the light can bounce back and forth such as in room, alleyway, or slot canyon. Reflected light is non-direct so it is great for bringing out textures and colors.
Diffused light is a very soft, non-direct light. It is good for all types of photography as it minimizes harsh shadows and hard contrast. Whether it’s an overcast day or soft box in the studio, diffused light makes it easy to evenly light your subjects.
Spot lighting is when your light source highlights a specific part of the image. It adds drama and helps to isolate the focal point of your image. Spot lighting can create a very nice contrast in an image.