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.

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!