4 common types of lighting every photographer should know


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Even for seasoned photographers, working with different types of lighting can be a challenge. A common suggestion that many photographers still use: “Point the ball at the subject”. However, some of the less common types of lighting are highly effective. Here are 4 common types of lighting every photographer should know.

In this article, you’ll get tips for working with four different types of natural light, including shade, overcast and backlit. Hopefully, you will find some inspiration from this article.

1. Shadow and light shining from the front

By “shade plus front light” I’m referring to a lighting situation when the sun is behind you (and over your shoulder), but the subject is shaded. The sun will usually illuminate the object, but it is blocked by the object.

The first is that it is easier to expose for a shadowed subject. You do not need to care about lighting and shadows. Instead, you can be assured knowing that the range of light and shadow in your images will be displayed correctly by the camera’s sensor.

The second is that this kind of light will create a great photo background. This is a particularly powerful technique when shooting during “golden hours”, the time immediately after sunrise and just before sunset.

If you can position the subject so that the sun falls behind the subject, you can take pictures with a very warm and beautiful background. It is important to expose the main subject, and to keep the background bright. Use a large aperture to separate the background from the focus.

Shaded objects can make great photos if you know how to use them!

2.Ball with backlight

To continue with the “shadow” topic, let’s discuss another kind of unused light: shadows and backlighting.

By the way, I am referring to a situation with a shaded subject, where the sun is placed behind that object so that you are facing the sun. In this situation, you cannot make the ball yourself. Instead, you have to rely on environmental features to block light.

This flower is covered by some nearby grass. I was able to get the background highlights by including the edges of the sun in the frame.

What does this light give you? Similar to a subject that is shaded and illuminated in front, a subject that has a shadow but is illuminated is easier to expose.

For example, if you are trying to photograph a brightly colored flower, it might be helpful to find a similar pattern in a shaded area. This will help you avoid highlights on the petals.

Another compelling reason to use this kind of special light is that it can create beautiful bokeh effects. I’m not really talking about bokeh in the sense of a smoother, smoother look that photographers love (for that, back to the shade plus the front light).

Instead, I mention beautiful geometric shapes that sometimes appear in the background of an image.

How do you do this?

In rearview environment, the light is usually filtered through the surrounding greenery. They are usually leaves, but also grass, shrubs, twigs, trunks, etc.The sun’s rays break down into small points of light, which are then rendered in that geometric fashion when incorporated into Your picture.

This is a nice effect that can add an extra punch to your photos.

3. Overcast lighting

This type of light is more commonly used than the two mentioned above, but overcast light (that is, light on cloudy days) is worth mentioning.

I photographed these flowers on a cloudy afternoon.

You might think that the camera should be inside on overcast days. After all, the subjects are not very well lit, and everything seems a bit overcast and bland.

In fact, the overcast day is great for photography. Especially if you go outside in the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky (and cloudy), you will see great diffuse light.

The clouds act as a giant, delicate softbox that illuminates the entire landscape. This results in deeply saturated colors. Great photographers like me love the overcast light because our flower photos become more colorful.

Another advantage for shooting on overcast days is similar to ghosting in that subjects are easier to expose. There is no bright sunlight to create harsh shadows and unpleasant highlights.

As a result, overcast days can be a great option for photographing brightly colored subjects.

4. Direct backlight

Direct lighting refers to situations where the sun is directly behind the subject (and thus directly in front of the photographer).

The sun is just off the frame here, on the tulip

This kind of light is hard to work with. Photographers often go with unwanted flare and a underexposed subject. However, using the backlight is simpler than you think. Just remember some key principles.

The first thing to note is that I don’t like using backlight directly unless the sun is low in the sky. Otherwise, instead of gaining a captivating, warm look, you’ll find yourself with a harsh, contrasting image. Sunrise and sunset are your windows, so you will need to work quickly and efficiently.

Second, do not place the sun in the image itself. This will lead to an almost impossible lighting situation. Instead, block the sun from your subject. Move around a bit. Down . If you decide to include the sun in the image, place it at the edge of the frame (like I did in one of the photos above).

The backlight (the sun in the back on the right) has created some really interesting bokeh in this bleeding heart photo.

Third, make sure your subject stands out from the background. I often try to compose with themes against the sky.

Fourth, expose your main topic. Do not worry about the light background. Then, once you have resolved the correct exposure for the subject, increase or decrease the exposure. Reduce it for a slightly darker, more dramatic look (and if you lower it a significant amount, you’ll end up shooting a silhouette). Raise it up to create a brighter, softer image.

While there are certainly many changes in backlight conditions, these four principles will help you get some creative images.


Although it’s hard to think outside the box and take risks when it comes to lighting, the rewards can be great.

Try using some of the lighting scenarios discussed above: shade and front light or backlight, overcast or even direct backlight.

Your image will become much more diverse and impressive!

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