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11 Types of Lighting in Photography

Whether you’re brand new to photography or have been taking photos for ages, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some of the most popular, versatile and commonly used lightings in photography. When you’re deciding what type of light works for your project, it’s going to come down to your subject and the concept and mood you are attempting to execute.

There is no universally perfect light for every different scenario,

Lighting is the most important consideration in photography. It’s what makes the photograph possible.

Light is the fundamental element in photography. In fact, the word photography was formed by merging the Greek words for light and drawing. Photographers create an image by capturing light particles on a light sensitive medium. Without light, it would not be possible to have photographs.

1. Ambient light

Ambient light is defined as lighting that is not added to the scene by the photographer. Sunlight can be ambient lighting, but so can a streetlight, and don’t forget about moonlight. None of these are added to the scene by a photographer.

2. Flat lighting

Flat lighting is when you have the light source facing directly onto the front of your subject. If you’re photographing a figure, it will mean that the face is well lit and that you won’t see any shadows on the face.

3. Broad light

Broad lighting is actually a type of side lighting. It’s where the most well-lit side of your subject is facing the camera, and the less well-lit side is away from the camera.

4. Short light

Short lighting is the opposite of broad lighting. This is where the shadow falls on the side of the face closest to the camera. This technique is flattering to most facial types, but in particular, it works well to make a full face look thinner.

5. Split light

Split lighting is where the light source hits the subject from the side at a ninety degree angle. It creates a split of light and shadow–half of the figure will be in the light, and half will be in the shadow.

6. Backlighting

Backlighting is the light source behind your subject. It can be used to create silhouettes, or you can combine it with certain atmospheric conditions–like smoke–to get more dramatic images.

7. Rim light

Rim lighting is where the light hits the subject at an angle, such that it creates highlights along the edges of your subject. This highlights the shape of your subject, and it’s a great technique to use to separate your subject from the background. You can create this with a single light source positioned behind the figure, Then, move the figure until the light creates a rim highlight along the edges.

8. Butterfly light

This technique is named for the distinctive shadow it creates below the nose of your subject. You set this up by placing the light in front of and above your subject. It will create a small butterfly-shaped shadow under the nose.

9. Loop light

Loop lighting It is less dramatic than other lighting types, but it creates more depth than flat lighting. It does all of this by still keeping the subject well-lit.

It’s easy to set up–you simply pose your figure and then set the light at a forty five degree angle to your figure and slightly above eye level.

10. Soft light

Soft light is light where shadow edges are soft and open, and there is less contrast. It is achieved with a larger, broader light placed closer to the subject. Overcast days are a great opportunity for outdoor soft lighting.

11. Hard light

Hard light is the opposite of soft light–it creates strong shadows and high contrast.

All of these types of lighting are great for different reasons. It depends on what kind of mood you’re trying to create as well as the figure you’re photographing. Whatever the image you want to create, light is crucial to creating the mood you want.

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