Photography: Advice on Lighting

Tutor no longer registered
Photography By: Tutor no longer registered
Subject: Art » Photography
Last updated: 08/04/2013
Tags: digital & film, fashion photography, photography portraits, studio workshops, teaching photography

The word 'Photography' is derived from the Greek for “Light writing”.

Lighting creates atmosphere. Learning to control light is essential. When studying a photograph that has been well lit, consider these points: -

  • What type or quality of light is being used?
  • Where is the light coming from?
  • What effect does it have on the subject and the background?


The smaller the light source the harder the light appears. The larger the light source the softer the light appears.

Flash Photography

  • Set up the scene – consider the backdrop. NB. A dark subject (e.g. person with dark hair) can blend into the background.
  • Consider the lighting required - Spot light, power of the lights, lighting modifications/ adjustments e.g. umbrella, barn doors, filter etc. What are the implications for shadows and highlights in the photo?
  • Set up the camera on the tripod (useful but not essential) – consider your viewpoint.
  • Traditionally photographers focus on the eyes.
  • Consider the depth of field – use the depth of field preview button or the “squint test”.
  • Set the camera at the Flash Sync speed –125 no more than 250sec.
  • Use the flashmeter to set the aperture.


 Methods of Studio Lighting

  • Key light is the First or main light. Creates form and shape.
  • Fill light – add light is the weaker light second and third light.
  • Reflector – this bounces light from the light source into the shadows.
  • Light above and slightly to the side – this is the most common i.e. School photos!
  • Camera flash – some are dedicated to a specific camera.
  • Hair lighting – above and behind the subject, works better on dark hair.
  • Back lighting – silhouette or outline effect created.
  • Under lighting – Perspex or glass lit from underneath with a still life on top.
  • Diffused light – Modification / adjustment to the spot light with use of: -Umbrella, Barn doors, Soft box, Reflectors.
  • Background lighting. Add depth to the Photography subject. Lights always at the side of background and main source of light at the front.
  • Creative use of reflectors – white paper, polystyrene, crinkled foil etc.
  • Creative use of backdrops – Light/ Dark – shadows and highlights.
  • Highlight – Where there is light.
  • Shadow – No light


 Always take care to avoid pointing the light source at the camera or you will create lens flare.

Tutors Wanted

  • Tin whistle teacher Southend on Sea Essex for a beginner
  • Piano Tutor - home visits SW London 4-8pm Tues/Weds DBS.
  • Piano Tutor to join team SW London 1-1, home visits, beginners, 6-8hrs/week
  • trumpet tutor Richmond, London (TW9) dbs, experience rqd
  • piano tutor Ilford DBS check, previous exp rqd
  • harp tutor sw15 6ad DBS check, experience
View tutor jobs
Tutors: Download your free e-book!