AmSnaps - Digital Photography Basics For Amateur Snappers

The Basic Principles Of Digital Photography Lighting

Digital photography lighting is made up from several areas, such as frontal lighting, side lighting, back lighting, hard and soft light and contrast. I'll start with light direction. You can watch and learn more about these topics in the video below.

Frontal lighting is created when your light source is coming from behind the camera. It shines onto the front of your subject. If you were taking a portrait, the subject’s face would be evenly lit. In this case, contrast is easily manageable and getting the right exposure is straight-forward.

The only disadvantage, in this case, with portrait shots is that your subject may be forced to squint.

Side lighting for most types of shot is a far better option. By keeping your lighting to one side of the camera, you can make shadows rake across the scene. This will highlight textures in all but the flattest surfaces, emphasising form and adding a strong sense of depth to your shots.

Back lighting can be a problem if you don’t set your camera for the correct exposure. You can end up with your subject as a silhouette with a bright background.

On the other hand, it can be used to create stunning results. You could have your subject correctly exposed in the foreground and the background burns out to create an atmospheric high-key effect.

If you have to shoot into the light, try using flash-fill to light up your subject so it doesn’t appear as a silhouette.

Digital Photography Lighting - Hard or Soft Light, Which Is Best?

Hard or harsh light is generally created by a single and small source. A good example is the Sun. On a clear summer’s day it casts dense black shadows. Colours seem intense, although colour saturation is actually greater in slightly overcast weather.

Soft light is used when you want to add atmosphere and romance to your portraits, landscapes, etc. The absence of strong shadows allows you to capture every detail. The results are much more soothing to look at.

Hard light can be made to look much softer by placing some kind of material between the source and the subject so it is diffused over a wider area.

When you are shooting outside, clouds are great for diffusing hard light from the Sun. They act like a giant softbox, causing the light to soften.

Taking pictures indoors is a different story. You have full control over your environment. You can bounce light of walls, use reflectors and condition the lighting with softboxes or umbrellas.

What is Contrast?

The variation in light is important in digital photography because it determines the contrast level of a particular scene. The contrast is roughly defined as the difference in brightness between the highlights and the shadows in your picture.

Great Video On Digital Photography Lighting!

You can find the books Mark recommends in his video listed below.

Lighting for Portrait Photography by Steve Barister
Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers by Christopher Grey

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David Coote
Wedding Photographer
Northern Ireland