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Types of Photography Lighting

Mukta Gaikwad
To master the art of capturing the moment the way it is in with a camera, it is extremely important to understand types of photography lighting. Read on to know what are the basic kinds of light effects that one needs to know before experimenting with the camera.

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Lighting is an important part of good photography. It is an existing tool, which a photographer needs to exploit to take some of the best pictures. The type of lighting decides the mood of the photograph and the texture it might get.

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A light effect can make or break your shot. For amateur and avid outdoor photographers, natural light is the only available light source. Thus, it is very important to understand the types of photography lighting and how it can affect your photographs.

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Lighting with respect to photography is one such subject which most photographers continue to study even after taking some of the prize winning pictures. So read on to know what are some of the types of lighting in photography.

Types of Lighting in Photography

Outdoor Lighting

The way the light falls on a subject and the way you to use it, will decide the color, quality and the texture of the photograph. In a photo studio these factors can be controlled. However, when you are shooting outdoors neither the source of the light, nor the subject can be controlled.
Hence you need to know exactly how to exploit the natural light resource. The natural light sources such as sunlight keeps changing by the hour. It also changes as per the seasons and the weather conditions.
Constant changes in outdoor lighting can bring about changes in the tones, colors, shades, shapes and forms of your subject. Remember that the direction of the light changes with movement of the clouds too. Strong and direct outdoor sunlight produces sharp shadows and well-defined photographs.
However, if the sunlight is diffused by mist, pollution or haze then it may produce weaker shadows and diffused highlights. Thus, to get the perfect shots, one needs to study the outdoor lighting for a day or two.

Side Lighting

Changes in lighting produce some very interesting effects. Side lighting is a natural lighting effect which highlights only one side of your subject. It creates a natural shading effect on your subjects, drawing attention to the most visible parts and adding a tinge of intrigue to parts which fade into the darkness.
So get this effect, watch the movement of the sun and its effect on the subject. You can either change the angle of your camera or wait for the sun to move. As light predominantly falls on one side of the subject, it creates sharper shadows or diffused effect on the opposite side.
Playing with side lighting gets easier and you can master the art of using outdoor lighting to your advantage.


Backlight is one of the basic light effects that a photographer needs to understand. When the light source comes directly on the camera, such that it illuminates the subject's back, the source is known as a backlight. Outdoor shoots use backlight to capture some of the best silhouettes. You may require a reflector or fill-in flash to make the silhouette stand out. Avoid exposing the camera lens of the direct source of light to prevent lens flare.

Existing Light

Existing light is the type of light which is naturally available. For instance, lights from tables, floors, and ceiling lights, neon signs, windows, skylights, candles, fireplaces, auto mobile headlights, moonlight and twilight are considered as existing sources of light.
Photographs taken in such kind of lighting look absolutely natural. Existing lighting allows a photographer to take some of the candid shots wherein the subject can be captured at its best. The pictures taken in this kind of lighting are pleasing to the eye as well, as it provides a soft texture of candid photography.

Diffuse Lighting

Diffused lighting is a softer lighter, which is usually used to create drama in photographs. This type of lighting brings out certain aspects of the subject, which are often lost in bright lighting. Light effect during cloudy weather, early morning light, twilight or single source of light create diffuse lighting effect.
This creates pictures which have dull outlines, thereby giving it a softer feel. To create your own diffuse lighting effect, place an umbrella in front of your light source.

Three Point Lighting

Three point lighting is a kind of lighting wherein there are three sources of lights. Front or key lighting, side and backlighting is the combination of a three point lighting. With varying angles of these light effects, a photographer can create desired shadows or take well-defined pictures. A backlight makes the subject stand out against the backdrop, while the front light helps in providing much-needed illumination for the subject.
Visualization is the key for using these light sources to your advantage. If you can imagine how you want your picture to look like, then understanding the effects these lights create would be very easy.