Lighting Master Class: Understand Lighting in Photography.

black digital camera set on a tripod

In this lighting master class, we will teach you lighting in photography and videography. Lighting is a powerful tool that can make or break your images. It has the power to create drama and mood, to draw attention with its contrast, and to illuminate an object from any angle. Lighting will always vary given the direction, size and contrast of the light source. However, there are two types of lighting, broad lighting and short lighting. Professional photographers will need equipment such as reflectors for softening the shadows on subjects’ faces; diffusers for creating softer more even lighting; a stand-in person for holding lights while shooting portraits; stands or other supports for placing lights overhead; all you need is a will to learn and an eye to see.

Content Map:

  1. The Two Types of Lighting
  2. Broad or Short Lighting?
  3. Lighting Patterns for Portraits
  4. Why Contrast Matters
  5. Why Light Size Matters
  6. Lighting Tools
  7. Learning to see

The Two Types of Lighting

Broad lighting and short lighting are what most photographers think of when they consider lighting. Broad lighting is a light source that comes from the same direction the photographer is shooting from, thus, casting a shadow away from the camera. Short lighting is a light source that is not in the same place the photographer is shooting, thus, casting a shadow towards the camera.

Broad or Short Lighting?

Short lighting is often preferable for portraits, because it will have the shadows facing camera. Short lighting adds depth to your image and flatters your subject more often. Broad lighting has specific uses such as filling in the face making your subject appear broader. Broad lighting does not add depth to an image the way short lighting does but still has its uses.

Lighting Patterns for Portraits

One could easily get confused on lighting patterns, in reality it is very simple, there are only 4 types of lighting patterns you could use on a subject. The names of these lighting patterns are rembrandt, loop, split and butterfly lighting. You can use these patterns with broad and short lighting creating 8 different lighting looks on camera. Experiment, Google, YouTube and learn these patterns, wonderful photos do not happen by luck.

Why Contrast Matters?

There is a lighting rule called the law of contrast, and it states that lighting with higher levels of contrast will appear brighter. This means if you have two objects which are about to be lit by your light source, then one object should receive more lighting than the other in order for there to be a significant difference between them. If you have an object or subject with a lot of contrast, then the lighting will bring out more dimension and appear darker than they normally are.

Why Light Size Matters?

Lighting size will affect the harshness or softness of your light. A small light source will create a strong contrast, thus creating harsh light. An example would be the sun. While the sun is big, it’s very far away, making it a small light source. A large light source would cast a softer light onto your subjects because light wraps around objects, this usually flatters subjects.

Lighting Tools

Flash photography has many tools involved, I will mention a few of them then a few favorites.

  • Soft Box: literally just softens the light
  • V Flat: A versatile reflector to add fill and negative (favorite)
  • Trigger: Triggers the flash if you wanted it off camera
  • Off Camera flash: Using your flash off your camera
  • Flash: singular tool that disburses light.
  • Ring Flash: is good for close up portraits because it provides even lighting without harshness or shadows.
  • Reflector: creates natural light from the sun, this can fill in dark areas on your subject’s face as well as adding an extra source of lighting

Learning to see light

Learning to see light might be the most essential skill one can gain, without this skill you will not understand what makes an image appealing. So, I encourage you to watch movies and notice how the light falls on the actress’s face. Be curious how these scenes were made and you can replicate with ease.

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