These lessons will focus on taking great cell phone photos, so good that you can create one of a kind photos. Please read all our lessons as they are short and cover: FOCUSING, CAMERA POSITIONING, BACKGROUND, LIGHTING, FRAMING and more topics!
Lesson 4: LIGHTING
While the effect of lighting on a photo’s meaning might at first not seem obvious, imagine this. A cupcake sitting on a picnic bench with bright sunshine shining down on it. Now imagine the same picnic bench with a cupcake on it in semi-darkness. The first photograph might suggest a gathering or a picnic is about to happen. The second might suggest a picnic that is already over. What we do with light, in other words, can have a HUGE impact on the photo’s meaning.
Lighting is used for a variety of purposes to produce a variety of effects. Most photographers are aware of natural lighting, and have experimented with light of different intensities: the soft warm golden light of sunrise on various objects vs the harder bluer light of the midday sun overhead vs the softer purple light of twilight. Light changes throughout the day, so we have to keep this in mind when creating one of a kind photos. Compare these two photos below and the effect time of day has on the color of the garden. The first is taken around 5 o’clock in the evening.
Now compare the same picture taken later on in the day.
What do you notice about the harshness of the shadows? The hues of twilight on the color of the yellow irises and on the color of the brick?
Natural light is important. If we are to harness light’s full potential to enhance our photographs, however, we have to become aware of other types of lighting than simply that which comes to us naturally. That means relying on certain lighting techniques. Most people use front lighting when they take pictures outside or inside. That is to say, the light source (the sun, the light) is in front of the object (or behind the photographer’s head). Front lighting is usually flat, evenly lighting up your subject.
Yet, if we were to put the light source behind the object, we could create other effects. You might want to film someone on the beach with the sun directly behind them to give them an angelic glow. See how this sparrow’s silhouette almost glows with a watery sun right behind it.
Darker more dramatic silhouettes can be taken with artificial lighting. Examine the striking effect the dark shadow the person makes with the back lighting of the Christmas lights on this photo.
Still another way to create different photographic effects is to use diffuse lighting. Diffuse light is a softer light that is less glaring than direct light. It tends to cut down on shadows and contrasts giving the picture a less harsh and more even look. In the photo below of Valentine’s flowers, you will see that the light has been diffused through window blinds, giving the décor a softened, almost cinematic feel.
Because diffuse lighting is simply lighting that has been partially blocked out or softened, you can use this same concept in various contexts (e.g. You can take portraits of people in the diffused light of a forest, take photos at twilight or obscured by cloud cover). So the next time you are trying to take a one of kind photo, take a moment to see what kind of lighting is at your disposal to enhance the effect of your picture.
In the mean time, have fun taking your one of a kind photos!