Lighting Basics: The 3 Types of Lighting

Have you ever seen someone’s photograph that you loved and wished to replicate it and then you were left thinking, “That picture is just too dark”? Or maybe it casted a weird shadow on a face that was distracting? The difference many times between a great looking photograph and one that seems to be missing something is the lighting. It can literally make or break your pictures and ultimately your success as a photographer. In learning to take pictures, lighting techniques should be one of the first topics that are tackled as they are essential to achieving a high quality photograph. Without proper lighting, photos can be grainy or blurry. Different types of light can produce different types of photographs, depending on how they are used. Knowing how to manipulate the light can make it easier to take the picture exactly as you want to get it every time.

To become a good photographer you should be familiar with the types of light that can be utilized and how to use them effectively. You’ll find the 3 types of light below and how you can use them to your advantage.

1) Natural Sunlight

If you know how to work with sunlight, you are on the right track. First of all, it’s free! Second, sunlight changes constantly through the day so you have many options as to how the picture will turn out. Sunrises and sunsets produce an effect that angles the light on the subject differently than during the middle of the day. Clear days in the afternoon are very bright and bring out colors and detail. Cloudy days sometimes are easier to work with since the sun may not be exposed. Within natural light there are 4 types you should know about:

  • Soft light – The type of light that is found in shade or completely cloudy day. Color contrasts are heightened and tints can be seen. Soft light also dials down the intensity of complex subjects, where direct light is too much.
  • Front light – You achieve this light by putting the sun behind you. The shadows are hidden behind the subject and the sun lights evenly and sharply. Make sure to use this light with a lot of colors, as the direct light can wash out the subject.
  • Side light – If you want shadows, use this light. It creates a lot of contrast and is popular in black and white photos.
  • Back light – Used to create beautiful silhouettes by creating a sharp contrast between the light and shadows. All the focus is on the subject, making translucent subjects interesting against the sun.

2) Low Light

It can be tricky to take photos in a low light atmosphere. On one hand, using the flash may wash out the subject. On the other hand, not using flash at all can make the photo blurry and grainy. It’s best to change up the settings on your camera to catch as much light as possible by playing around with it for a few minutes. It can be very difficult to catch the best image in a room with low light but if you can master it you can take some great looking photos and have the confidence to take pictures in any light and during any setting. Do your best with what you have and don’t be afraid to experiment.

3) Reflected Light

That dreaded “sun spot” in photos can happen if you don’t know what to do when the light is shining directly on the subject. It’s a good idea to even the light out by reflecting it onto a white background and bouncing in back onto the subject. The glare is gone and the light is diffused. Professional portrait photographs much rather prefer to use reflected lighting than be outdoors where the sunlight is hard to control. You can adjust the shadow on the subject by changing the angle of the light. In this situation a meter to measure the light exposure is good so that you can be consistent in the lighting that works best for your pictures.

There is so much more when it comes to lighting but if you’re just starting out this will give you a great foundation and ability to practice taking pictures in different light. Start experimenting and see what works for you and what light you love to shoot in. Every photographer has a favorite lighting and you can only find this through practice and taking lots of pictures.

10 Tips To Take Great Photographs

Are you a photography novice, taking photographs as a hobby, or have you been a professional photographer for years? Either way, you could always learn something new when it comes to the art of photography. Whether it be the lighting, angle, shadow, or the subject itself, any tips for taking great pictures should not be dismissed. We decided to take a collection of the best tips on taking great pictures and put into a simple list. Read on below to find out our top 10 tips for taking great photographs.

1) Make eye contact with your subject

Hold the camera at the subject’s eye level, and engage their gaze. This will make the picture feel more personal and inviting to the one looking at it. It’s also more comfortable for the person that’s being photographed as people enjoy eye contact and this can show in pictures.

2) Use the flash outdoors during the day

file0001758869502You might think, “I don’t need my flash when it’s so bright.” Sometimes the sun creates unwanted shadows on people’s faces that the flash can wipe out. Turning on the flash can brighten faces and even out that unwanted light that can be harsh.


3) Get up close

Fill the frame with your subject by getting in close and not wasting so much space around them. Plus, you might be able to see details on someone that were once too far away to detect from farther away. Many novice photographers make the mistake of not getting close enough as they assume the picture can be cropped down later. This can be done but you lose a lot of detail that you otherwise would have picked up if you just get a little closer.

4) Natural expression

Try and get a “real” smile out of someone to make the photograph seem more genuine. Tell a funny joke or compliment them to make the smile feel more natural. Great photographs are natural, you don’t want forced expressions like a JC Penny Portrait Studio.

5) Do research, quit buying

So many photographers starting out think they need all the best equipment to be the best. Put away the urge to buy ANOTHER lense, and pick up a photography book, shadow a more experienced photographer, even go online and look at examples of creative photographs. There are many world renowned photographers that are using what many would consider out of date gear. Much like golf, it’s not as much about the clubs as it is the swing. Same goes in photography, it’s not as much about the camera as it is the person holding the camera.

6) Focus, focus, focus

Up Close PhotographyNobody wants a blurry picture, right? Lock in the focus of your subject by moving them slightly away from the center. This will keep the auto-focus function from kicking in and give you more control of how to adjust your lens.

7) Simplify your pictures

Putting too many things in your image is distracting and can be confusing on what the person looking at the photo should be focusing on. One to three things is enough to engage the person. A solid rule of thumb is that you want your pictures to be as simple as possible, just keep it simple.

8) What’s that back there?

Be aware of what lingers behind your subject. Be sure to survey the entire photograph area and not just the subject. An unpleasant background that draws the eye away from the subject is the opposite of what you would want.

9. Change it up!

Varying the types of photos you take can help to convey what you as the photographer are trying to get across. For example, shooting portraits the same way every time is boring and doesn’t show your strengths and adaptability. Not to mention if you never venture out and try different things you may never discover where you truly shine.

file000116228129010) Practice makes perfect

Wanna get better at taking pictures? Take pictures. A lot. Play with different backgrounds, focal points, and angles. The point is to experiment with all possibilities and to form your own photography style, making your pictures unique.

Taking Great Portraits

A staple of photography and something that sets good photographers apart from great ones is their ability to take a portrait shot. But it’s not supposed to be like the old school portraits where everyone looks the same. What makes a great portrait is that it amplifies everything about the person in the portrait. A portrait should be as original as the person that’s in it and no two portrait shots should be exactly the same. It should tell a story.

You may be thinking that sounds all well and good, but how does one actually go about doing this? Well, to help out all my fellow photographers or at least aspiring photographers, I’m going to share some tips with you and help you take amazing portraits.

Don’t Be Boring

If you want to stand out as a photographer, then you don’t want to be boring or just another run of the mill portrait taker. We don’t want J.C. Penney portrait studio shots. We want original and great looking shots. People today want their pictures to tell a story and be unique. You don’t want to boring. Be willing to alter the perspective of the picture. A portrait doesn’t have to be where a person sits in a chair and looks directly at the camera. Try taking the picture from above with them looking up, having them lay on the floor and you shoot the shot with your camera at floor level. It takes some practice to get right, but you can really have portraits that have a real WOW factor to them.

Eye Contact

Be willing to play with the eye contact of the person in the portrait. They don’t have to stare into the camera. Have them look to the side, look away, or perhaps laughing at something off camera. Another great way to bring some personality and uniqueness to a portrait is to bring in their child or a loved one for them to look at. Nothing will show the joy they have in their life for that loved one than a portrait that displays that joy for everyone to see. Again, be willing to play around with this and create your own look.


I’ve talked about this before, but lighting can make or break a great photograph. If you play with the lighting just right, you can create amazing pictures. Be willing to try different light settings during the session. Sometimes you won’t really know until you edit the pictures later what light suits your model the best. The best photographers develop a style of lighting that works for them and their clients. Step out of your comfort zone for a few shots and give some different lighting situations a try. The worst case is that it won’t work and nobody will ever know anyways.


The person in the portrait doesn’t always have to be directly in the center of the shot. Some really neat portraits have the person off-center to the left or right. It’s a great way to add some artistic flair to what can sometimes be a dull process. During a session, try this and see how it plays for you. It’s a hit or miss sort of thing. If you’re hired to take a portrait, some clients may love the idea while others may hate it. Try both and let them decide which they like.

Candid Shots

Many times some of the best photographs happen when people don’t know they are being photographed. During a session, always have your camera ready as you may see a great photo opportunity while your client is on the phone, talking with someone, or laughing at a joke. You can also have your client step out of their comfort zone by taking a picture of them doing something perhaps they never do, like shouting, jumping up in the air, or anything else that comes to mind. This can make the process fun for both you and the client and you may just end up with some great looking pictures.

Here’s a good video that will give you some more tips on taking great portrait pictures.

The Latest Photography Trends in 2014

Remember when Instagram was starting to gain in popularity, and filters were being used left and right? Or, that literally EVERYONE takes a selfie now? How about the obvious helicopter shots to hide wrinkles and fat? Thankfully, those trends, and many more, won’t be around forever. But there are new photography trends that are popping up, both with professional photography and smartphone photography. The tools and functions are getting better on cameras and more shutterbugs are popping up, ready to share their ideas and methods with the world. Let’s look at some of the more recent trends gaining traction. These included trends involving gear and techniques.

1. The Return of Black and White

What was once the only image option for color 100 years ago, black and white photos are making a comeback in popularity. Photographers will take the picture in color, then transfer it to black and white. The contrasts and shades are remarkable. With black and white, you can alter the tones in development to create a work all your own. What can help you stand out from other black and white photography is lighting that you use as it can really make a black and white image pop. You can learn more about lighting here.

2. Super Close Up

It’s all in the details! All-in-one zoom cameras are providing photographers with a way to take a close picture with a lens that provides a wide enough range for any shooting circumstance. By using a very close zoom, you can catch all the little intricacies of the subject that is not apparent from further away.

3. Video and Digital Still in One

I can remember needing two different cameras to catch photos and video. Well, that is quickly going to the wayside, as all-in-one cameras are essential and a must. Even iPhone’s can do this (taking a screenshot from a video). This technology is constantly improving so keep a look out for the latest cameras that offer this. I’ve even been able to take a still from a video shot and the quality is remarkable, you would have to be a diligent expert to notice it was taken in such a way.

4. HDR (High Dynamic Range)

Let It BeTrying to achieve an image with the best color and contrast can be difficult if not given good lighting circumstances. HDR is a function (on smartphones, too!) that takes a few images taken at different exposures to form one photo that shows all the shadows, highlights, coloring, etc. It’s not easy to do well, but it created an image that is detailed and unique. When done correctly it can help give your images a great all around and balanced look.

5. Mirrors and Reflections

Using a subject’s reflection is the latest trend in storytelling through photography. The look of someone gazing into a mirror, or angled shot of someone crying taken through a reflection produces a very powerful image and makes the viewer feel more emotional.

6. Gray and Natural Colors

Bright and colorful images are in…for now. There is a gradual move to more muted tones that don’t take away from the subjects. As with fashion, natural colors have become more popular and therefore more common in photography. Don’t try and be too trendy with your photography though because true photography is timeless and you don’t want a powerful image to be ignored years later because it was shot in a “trendy” fashion at the time.

7. Cooking

With the explosion of cooking shows and food blogs, the exploration of “real” cooking and what the food actually looks like when cooking is on the up swing. This technique helps the viewer connect with the image and photographer better. Focusing on details becomes important with this trend.

iPhone Photography 101

There are more and more people out there don’t own an actual camera. Especially those who are looking to just get into photography but what most people do have is an iPhone. If you are like most people, you use your smartphone for everything, and that’s usually means for taking pictures as well. The good news is photography using an iPhone has improved greatly since the 1st generation was released in 2007. In fact it can be a great tool to help you learn the art of photography before you make your first camera purchase. Nowadays you can add filters, cropping tools, even change the color. The camera itself auto adjusts, focuses, etc. But all of those extras doesn’t mean much if you don’t know the best way to take a photo with it.

If you follow these simple rules when using your iPhone to take a picture, your results will be much better and you’ll be happier with your photos. Keep in mind that some of these tips could apply to an actual camera too, not just an iPhone.

Good Lighting

Don’t make the person in the picture stare into the sun! Put the sun behind them or to their side to create cool shading and not wash them out. Lighting can make or break a good photo.


As with good lighting, HDR will take 3 different pictures and put them together to give a better lit photo. Takes some getting used to to get right, since movement between the 3 pics will cause a blurry image, but the results are beautiful with practice.

Use Both Hands

You don’t want a shaky or blurry image because your hand isn’t steady. Use 2 hands to sturdy the phone and take advantage of the shutter function to get the best possible picture from a group.

Grid Lines

The grids divides the image into 9 equal boxes and helps you create the image you want. Move closer or move away depending on what fits in the boxes.

Don’t Use The Zoom

If you are looking to take picture that is grainy and distorted, using the zoom function can achieve this. It’s best to physically move forward or backward for a clear image.

Download Some Apps

There are literally hundreds of camera and photo apps that you can purchase to help you take a better photo. They offer ways to tweak the photo after taking it, or ways to improve the focus, exposure, etc.

AE/AF Lock

This function is so awesome to easily focus on the subject. Tap the screen where you want to focus and then hold until the box bounces. Now, no matter where you move the camera to, that same area will remain the focus. Great for backlit subjects.

Minimize The Use Of Filters

Instagram filters are very popular, and thus, overused. Every picture you see on Facebook or Instagram start to look the same. Use tools from other apps to achieve a unique look. Just don’t use a filter EVERY TIME you take a pic.


Quit taking pictures with the phone held vertically. You’re likely to not be able to fit subjects in the image and have to move farther away, making it difficult to see any details. Horizontal photos are much more professional looking and easier to print out if you choose.

Here’s a great video that has some more tips also!