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How to Use 5 Types of Light in Photography

 

Using Light to Your Advantage in Photography

Thor Swift is a photo journalist and award-winning wedding photographer. His work has been featured in publications from the New York Times to his children's school newsletter. These are his pictures and his words...read more

Using Light to Your Advantage in Photography

Thor Swift is a photo journalist and award-winning wedding photographer. His work has been featured in publications from the New York Times to his children's school newsletter. These are his pictures and his words...

In photography, the light is everything. You cannot capture any image without it, so knowing how the light will record on your media is one of the most important things to consider when making photographs. The human eye and brain adjust immediately to different light colors; for the most part you will see the same white object as white regardless of the light source. However, cameras cannot make these adjustments, but if you learn how to use different types of light you will be able to make stunning images like a pro.
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Using Light to Your Advantage in Photography

Photo by: Thor Swift

1. Silhouette or Strongly Backlit

Any time the light behind your subject is substantially brighter then the light in the foreground you will get a silhouette. The amount of detail in the foreground will depend on the difference in light between the background and foreground. You can adjust this amount either by adding more light to the foreground, by using your flash or other light source, or by changing the camera settings for exposure. On many cameras you can use the Exposure Compensation setting to over or under expose the scene to get the desired affect. This may take some experimenting at first, but once you get used to figuring the exposure on the subject and not using the camera’s automatic setting you will have results that will amaze.

1. Silhouette or Strongly Backlit

Any time the light behind your subject is substantially brighter then the light in the foreground you will get a silhouette. The amount of detail in the foreground will depend on the difference in light between the background and foreground. You can adjust this amount either by adding more light to the foreground, by using your flash or other light source, or by changing the camera settings for exposure. On many cameras you can use the Exposure Compensation setting to over or under expose the scene to get the desired affect. This may take some experimenting at first, but once you get used to figuring the exposure on the subject and not using the camera’s automatic setting you will have results that will amaze.

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1.  Silhouette or Strongly Backlit

Photo by: Thor Swift

2. Window Light

The daylight streaming in an open window to a dark room is one of the most flattering types of light for any subject. Place your subject close to the window in a room with normal interior light and the light from outside will be much brighter than the interior light and create a beautiful vignette effect on the subject. This effect creates a very soft form of light without harsh shadows.

2. Window Light

The daylight streaming in an open window to a dark room is one of the most flattering types of light for any subject. Place your subject close to the window in a room with normal interior light and the light from outside will be much brighter than the interior light and create a beautiful vignette effect on the subject. This effect creates a very soft form of light without harsh shadows.

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2.  Window Light

Photo by: Thor Swift

3. Artificial Light

Sometimes you have no choice but to use artificial light, or want to use it for some effect. The problem is most camera flashes are on top of a camera and point directly at the subjects creating a very flat and harsh shadows and glare. If you have a flash that can swivel, point it at the ceiling or toward a wall behind you but facing your subjects. This will create a more diffuse light source resulting in less harsh and more natural looking light. It also will allow more of the ambient light to be seen, which will make the image look more natural also.

3. Artificial Light

Sometimes you have no choice but to use artificial light, or want to use it for some effect. The problem is most camera flashes are on top of a camera and point directly at the subjects creating a very flat and harsh shadows and glare. If you have a flash that can swivel, point it at the ceiling or toward a wall behind you but facing your subjects. This will create a more diffuse light source resulting in less harsh and more natural looking light. It also will allow more of the ambient light to be seen, which will make the image look more natural also.

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3.  Artificial Light

Photo by: Thor Swift

4. Sunset

There are few things more beautiful than the light at sunset (or sunrise if you like getting up before everyone else). The light has a tactile feel of warmth and surrounds your subjects with a lovely glow. The low angle and warm color of the light are flattering from every angle. Another great thing about sunsets is they look different through a camera depending on where you are in the world and the time of year, sometimes they are more red in color and sometimes more yellow, but always beautiful.

4. Sunset

There are few things more beautiful than the light at sunset (or sunrise if you like getting up before everyone else). The light has a tactile feel of warmth and surrounds your subjects with a lovely glow. The low angle and warm color of the light are flattering from every angle. Another great thing about sunsets is they look different through a camera depending on where you are in the world and the time of year, sometimes they are more red in color and sometimes more yellow, but always beautiful.

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4.  Sunset

Photo by: Thor Swift

5. Tungsten Lights

Tungsten lights are the type of lights most often used in homes and produce a “warm” yellowish light. When photographing under tungsten light use this warmth to your photograph’s advantage. Turn off your camera flash (they produce a really blue light in relationship to tungsten). You may have to use a slow shutter speed in this kind of situation. If that is the case brace yourself against a chair or some other stable object and exhale and hold your breath before pressing the shutter. The less you move, the less there will be image shake, and the result is an image with glowing warmth.

5. Tungsten Lights

Tungsten lights are the type of lights most often used in homes and produce a “warm” yellowish light. When photographing under tungsten light use this warmth to your photograph’s advantage. Turn off your camera flash (they produce a really blue light in relationship to tungsten). You may have to use a slow shutter speed in this kind of situation. If that is the case brace yourself against a chair or some other stable object and exhale and hold your breath before pressing the shutter. The less you move, the less there will be image shake, and the result is an image with glowing warmth.

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5.  Tungsten Lights

Photo by: Thor Swift