Importance of lighting for photography

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Anyone who has ever taken a photograph, be it with a professional camera or a camera on a smartphone, knows intuitively that lighting is very important. Not only does it make a photo clear, good lighting also makes the colors more vivid and vibrant, it sets the mood and the atmosphere and helps create a professional-looking photograph.

Types of lighting sources

There are two types of lighting sources: natural and artificial ones. Natural light is emitted by the sun and the moon, whereas artificial comes from the flashes, candles, bulbs and so on. Every one of these light sources has their own special color cast. For example, light bulbs typically have orange color cast so photos taken under this kind of lighting have orange saturation.

On the other hand, the fluorescent light bulb illuminates with the color blue.  Natural light sources also have different color casts depending on the season in the year and the time of day. Early mornings have soft yellow color cast while late afternoons and sunsets have a distinct deeper shade of orange. Knowing how to best use these light features and manipulate them to your advantage is what separates amateurs from professional photographers.

The importance of shadow

Photographers often tell stories about the people, situations or places captured in their photos. Other than the light saturation, and the color cast, they also use shadows to express certain emotions and communicate with their audience. All previously mentioned light sources create shadows of different intensities. According to the intensity, there can be hard and soft lights.

Hard light is the one that creates sharper shadows. One light source can produce both hard and soft light effect, depending on its position related to the subject of the photo.  If the subject is placed farther from the light source, we have a soft light situation, whereas hard light effect is created if we move the subject closer to the source of the light. Hard light is often used in movies of suspense and mystery, or to make a person or object stand out from its surroundings. Soft light produces fewer shadows so it is preferred for portraits, food, furniture or clothes catalogues.

There is no such a thing as an unsuitable light. Each type of light, coming from a natural or artificial source, producing sharper or softer shadow can find its use in different context and for shooting different things. The advantage of artificial light sources over natural ones is the fact that it can be easily manipulated, adjusted and used for extended periods of time.

Helpful lighting tips:

Two most common problems that any amateur photographers may face are using the flash in poorly lit conditions and glare. If you use the flash you might get a photo that is too washed out or grainy. Even though this is very difficult to avoid, it is not impossible. The suggestion is to set the camera still on a tripod and set the ISO in such a way as to take the most advantage of the lighting you have in the room. When it comes to glare, professionals often use reflected light to prevent it. Reflected light means shining light onto another surface in the room, like a wall, from which the light can bounce and diffuse the light over your subject.