How to Use Light in Photography

Mastering the Basics

  1. Find the light source. Look around you and find where the light is coming from. Light can come from almost anywhere — above you, behind you, around you. Where the light is coming from will make a difference in how your subject looks. For example, light coming from above your subject might cause sharp shadows, while light coming from in front of your subject can flatten the image.
    • Move around your subject and note how changing the direction of the light changes the image. Move your subject to an area where the direction of the light creates the look you want. Certain lights will flatter your subjects, while others can create drama. Note the color of the light. Light can be bright, soft, harsh or low. It can take on a variety of colors depending on its source. Some lights are cool while others are warm. The quality of the light will affect how your subject looks, and can cause pictures to be too harsh, too soft, too dark, or just right.
  2. Look for details. Your eyes see more details than a camera can pick up. This is why your photos often don’t match what you see. But being aware of the exposure, which is the overall brightness or darkness of a scene, will help you capture the details you want to include.
    • If you are using a camera that has an exposure setting, a neutral or normal exposure will create the most natural-looking image.
  3. Look for contrasts. The direction of the light creates highlights and shadows. Highlights are the brightest part of an image. Conversely, a shadow is the darkest part of an image. The contrast between shadows and highlights is what makes an image interesting. Knowing how changing your light will change the contrast is the difference between taking a sub-par photo and taking one that your friends will rave about.
    • Side-lit photos will have a lot of contrast. Front-lit photos will typically have very little contrast. Images shot on a cloudy day usually are also low in contrast, while images shot in the bright sun are generally high in contrast.[

Taking Advantage of Light Direction

  1. Use front lighting for the most certain results. Positioning your subjects so the light shines them straight on is the most common way to work with light. Changing the brightness of the light, however, can turn this common set-up into uncommon photos. Soft front lighting, for example, can be very flattering. Bright front lighting, such as a flash, can be too harsh.
    • Flash is the most common form of front lighting. Most built-in flashes are set to flash automatically in low light. For more control, you can disable this feature and use the flash only when you want to. Sometimes, you’ll want to use it to fill in shadows when the light is bright. Other times, you might want the image to remain in shadows for a special effect, so you would not want your camera to use a flash at all.
    • Camera flashes sometimes cause “red eye.” The best way to prevent this is to have your subject looking away from the camera. You can often remove red eye from existing photos with free photo-editing software available online.
  2. Use back lighting to create dramatic photos. Back-lit photos are so interesting because they are the opposite of a standard photo. In a back-lit photo, the background is illuminated while the foreground is in the dark. A solar eclipse is a good example of a back-lit photo. These can be tricky, but experimenting with different lights and different camera settings will help you learn to achieve the result you want.
    • Silhouettes are the prime example of back-lit photos. You can create a simple one by putting the light directly behind your subject. When you shoot from the front, the subject will remain dark.
  3. Use side lighting for stand-out portraits. To produce an eye-catching effect on your photos, use lighting from the side, which will put part of your subject in light and part in shadow. It is great for showing depth in landscape photography, as well as portraits.
    • Side lighting will create depth, but you need to be careful not to go overboard. Too much contrast can be unflattering. Many professional photographers use a reflector or a flash to fill in the shadows and reduce the sharp edges.
    • One of the most popular poses for portraits is to position your subject in front of a window, with one shoulder facing the camera. Different effects can be achieved by having your subjects change the direction of their heads. For one photo, ask them to look out the window. For another, have them look at you.
  4. Use diffused lighting for natural pictures. Diffused lighting is a soft light that can be produced by the sun shining through clouds, by the shade of trees or by light bouncing off a wall or ceiling. This soft light produces a pleasing image that captures the natural colors and details of the subject. EXPERT ADVICE Or Gozal, photographer, tells us: “You can purchase a fabric diffuser to cover the flash and soften the light. For an inexpensive option, you can also just place a sheer piece of fabric over the flash!”

Focusing on Light Quality

  1. Take photos during the Golden Hour. The Golden Hour is the hour around sunrise and sunset, where the sun is near the horizon, and the light is softer. This soft light is perfect for nearly any type of photo.
  2. Take photos on overcast or cloudy days. The weather and time of day have a major effect on the type of light you will be shooting in. It might seem counterintuitive, but overcast is good. Clouds will diffuse the light, making shadows lighter or non-existent. The shadows cast by large buildings and trees can also create the same type of diffused light found on overcast days.
    • Many photographers think that overhead sun is the best light because everything is so bright. Unfortunately, this is often the worst time to take pictures. Colors will be washed out. If you are taking photos of people, shadows will be too dark under facial features. In addition, you are likely to see squinting eyes looking back at you through your viewfinder.
  3. Be aware of light color. During the Golden Hour, the sunlight casts off red and yellow rays. This is a great light for warm and appealing photos. If you are taking pictures of people, they will particularly like this light because warm colors flatter the skin. These colors will also make scenes appear more cheerful.
    • Blue hours consist of the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset, when the sun is just below the horizon. This early and late indirect light results in a light with a cool blue cast. It can create photos with a more somber mood.

How to Get Started in Digital Photography

1 Develop or have a desire to learn the art of digital photography. Whether you just want to learn something new, take better pictures of your kids, get more interesting photographs, or get a new hobby, you must have a desire to learn.

2 Get equipment. Anything that can take a digital picture can be used for digital photography: a cell phone camera, a $20 mini camera from Walmart, a simple point and shoot, or an advanced DSLR. It doesn’t matter what you use to get the shot, you can get good pictures with anything.

3 Learn about your equipment. Know how to use most, if not all, of the features on your camera. Most cameras offer a “full automatic” mode, which is great for those beginning into digital photography. Just compose the shot and take the picture. As you become more advanced, you can start to try out the other various modes on your camera.

4 Learn about photography. There is a plethora of information about photography on the internet. Search for articles on the basics of photography, such as exposure, rule of thirds, and light. The more you learn, the better at photography you will become. Never stop searching for new information.

5 Get out and take pictures. You won’t get better at anything without practice. Take your camera with you wherever you go, and always be ready to take a picture. While you are out, try out new techniques or ideas that you have come up with. Try to get the picture that you can visualize in your head beforehand.

6 Learn how to use post-processing programs. The two major programs are Adobe Photoshop and GIMP. These can be extremely complicated, technical, and hard to use, but once you master the basics you will be very happy that you took the time to learn. For beginning photographers, GIMP is perfect because it is completely free. It is similar to Photoshop, but a little bit less daunting and much less expensive. Start by reading a few articles on how to use GIMP, then spend time experimenting with your own images. There is an excellent video podcast on how to use GIMP called Meet the Gimp.

7 Sign up for a free photo sharing site. Join an online community, like Flickr, and post some of your best images. Join groups pertaining to you and your photos and submit your images to them. Join a beginning photographers group and ask any questions that you have. Look at other people’s photographs, analyze them, try to duplicate them, and then apply what you have learned to your own photography.

8 Download photography podcasts. These will help you learn new techniques, see professional work, etc. Some good ones include: Chase Jarvis Photography, D-Town TV, Photography 101, The Art of Adventure Photography, and The Art of Photography.

9 Finished.

How to Be a Great Photographer

1 Get a camera. It does not have to be new! Check out how many mm it has! 36mm-108mm works well.

2 Start experimenting with your settings. There are tons of them to mess with.

3 For starters, take pictures of flowers, with the right knowledge, they are easy to capture and they look beautiful. To work on this, go to flower mode (macro) and work on it. You may like this!

4 Get to know your camera too. learn how to turn flash on and off, take pictures(or video’s), delete mess ups, look through your previously taken pictures, zoom in and out and more.

5 Look at the tips below steps, these tips are helpful and they will get your creative mind going.

6 Try different perspectives and angles, this will help you take a possibly normal photo and turn it into a beautiful masterpiece. Also try different settings like colors. You can have a picture be black & white, sepia (red), or just in color.

7 Experiment. try getting down on your knees. Throw a pebble in water and then quickly get the picture, you want to be eye to eye with the water (but don’t let it get wet) by getting this type of picture, with practice, you can get ripples and waves pictures that are truly stunning.

8 Some other things that are fun to get are the following: the grass’s reflection on the water, clouds, looking up at the top of a tree, chipped paint on old wood, anything mechanical and rusted, fire, animals, shadows, people swimming (especially jumping off a dock), statues, sun shining on water and much more.

9 Make up your own style, do photography with passion