Photography Lighting: how to take control of everything from natural light to flash

Photography Lighting: take control of everything from natural light to off-camera flash

How to control your photography lighting

With a few props you can experiment with lighting set-ups. Move a lamp into different positions and note the effect that this has on your subject, and the shadows. You’ll need a high ISO such as 800 or 1600 to get a fast shutter speed and avoid shake. See our disc for more DIY lighting tips!

How to control your photography lighting: front lighting

1 Front light
With the light behind the camera, and pointing directly at the subject, you’ll get very flat lighting. This is the same as you’ll get by shooting with the sun behind you or using an on-camera flash.

 

How to control your photography lighting: side lighting

2 Side light
Moving the light to one side of the subject produces a far more interesting light, as it shows the shape of the subject much more than when the light is coming from the camera position.

 

How to control your photography lighting: back lighting

3 Back light
With the light behind the subject you get a completely different effect. This time most of the light is hitting the side of the subject, which creates a more atmospheric and moody image.

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Simple ways of improving the light

In this section we take a look at some of the easy ways you can improve the light available to you.

Photography Lighting: simple ways of improving the light

Controlling the light for large subjects such as landscapes is impossible, but for smaller subjects such as portraits, close-ups or details in the landscape you don’t always have to make do with the lighting conditions exactly as they are.

There are plenty of different ways that you can alter the light, especially when you find yourself having to shoot in harsh, direct lighting conditions.

As we have already explained, to get softer light you need to make the light source appear larger to the subject. Moving the light closer to the subject will help to produce softer light, but this isn’t always convenient, or even possible.

Using a diffuser to soften light

Without a diffuser

If you are shooting a small subject in sunlight, then you need to use a diffuser between the light and the subject, to make the light source appear much larger.

This doesn’t have to be an expensive piece of kit, it can simply be a piece of semi-transparent white paper or cloth, or you could go for one of the folding diffusers such as those from Lastolite.

Using a diffuser to soften light

With a diffuser

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