All You Need to Know About Photography Lighting 101

Photography is an art that relies on light to create images. It dates back to the late 1830s when the first model that inspired the modern cameras was invented by Joseph Nicephore Niepce, a Frenchman. Things have changed so much since then, with better cameras in circulation these days. The one thing that has not changed is the use of light in photography.

The choice of lighting in photography is vast; it depends on the type of shoot you are carrying out. You can either choose to go natural or artificial. However, there is very little that you can control when photographing in the sunlight. If you want more controls with photography lighting, then an indoor photography session is what you need.

Natural Light

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This is the light that is provided primarily by the sun. There are different ways that natural light can be manipulated in photography. The following are some natural light variations for photography lighting.

  • Flat Light

This is when the light falls directly at the front of the subject. If the area in question is the face, flat light will cover the whole of it, leaving no shadows anywhere. It is the best type of lighting used for photographing babies and people with skin conditions as it masks out the imperfections that may become an issue for your subject.

  • Broad Light

Broad light is a type of side lighting that hits the subject at an angle closest to the camera receiving the most light while the other side falls in the shadow. Broad light is used when the aim is to make the face of the subject look fuller. 

  • Split Light

Split light hits the face at a right angle, making the subject to have half the face well lit while the other half completely blacked out. You can even see the fine line that splits the two sides; hence the name split light. This is a technique used to give the subject a tough masculine look. Therefore it should not be used on any subject that comes through your doors. 


This is the type of light that comes from behind the subject to give them a beautiful silhouette. This technique works best during sunsets, just when the sun is emitting that golden light, making it shimmer through the hair. Nailing a backlight shot can be challenging as it has the tendency to be out of focus and requires a photographer adept at handling their camera.

  • Reflector Light

Reflector light is the light that is caught by a reflective surface specifically designed to bounce backlight into the face of the subject as they face away from the sun. For the best effect, use the reflector in warm light, just after dawn or before sunset. When used in harsh sunlight, it can cause discomfort on the subject with its blinding light.

Artificial Light

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Artificial lighting refers to all the electric sources of lights for photography lighting. They include the following:

  • Monolights

These are strobe lights that come equipped with the flash, and the controls are consolidated into the same equipment. Another advantage is their small size that makes it easy for them to be carried around. They are also easy to set up and operate. Monolights can be powered by both batteries and direct AC.

  • Speedlight Flash

This is the flash that comes equipped with the camera. It is inbuilt and draws its power from the camera’s battery. The flash is usually used in the absence of natural light or when the shadows are too dark. However, it is usually too harsh on the subject and creates too much exposure. Speedlight flashes come in handy for events that need quick shots with no time to adjust, like wedding photography.

  • LED Lights

LED is an acronym for Light Emitting Diodes, and they are types of lights that have gained prominence in the last decade. They are energy efficient, and they produce the least heat among all artificial photography lights. One good example of an LED light that would best work here is the GindeStar Neon flex, which can be used to add varied colors to the subject, giving them an artsy look.

  • Tungsten Lights

Tungsten lights are a widely used form of incandescent lights that work best in indoor settings. They give off a warm light that is used to regulate the temperature of the colors in post-processing. Tungsten bulbs are cheap and easy to procure; their only drawback is that they produce a lot of heat, which can make the subject uncomfortable if exposed to them for too long.

  • Strobe Lights

Strobe lights are the most preferred types of artificial lights found in almost every major studio. They can be synchronized with the camera to produce light with every click press of the shutter release. They provide a lot of light, which can be regulated using controls or diffusion filters. Strobe lights are usually enclosed in photo boxes for an even distribution of light on the subject.

  • Fluorescent Lights

The conventional fluorescent lights that are found in every office and house can also double up as photography lights. One advantage that makes them ideal is that they are energy efficient compared to others like Tungsten lights, which consume a lot of energy. However, fluorescent lights are rarely used by photographers due to the blue and green color cast that they produce.


Photography is an art that keeps improving as the years go by. Digital cameras have now evolved into mirrorless types that are faster and better at manipulating light at will. Photography is no longer reserved for the best; anyone can become a pro with enough practice, thanks to the easy controls, the cheap camera sets, the emergence of better camera phones, and countless YouTube tutorials. If you are looking to start your own photo studio, then these lights should be on your shopping list.

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