Guide to Photography Lighting for Beginners

Photography lighting can seem intimidating to beginners. But, once you understand a few general things about it, you will be able to create your own lighting set ups in no time. Here is a brief guide for what you need to know about photography lighting.

Light Comes in Many Different Colors

The first thing to understand about lighting is that all light is not the same color-- different lighting has different color tempertures. For photography lighting, the two temperatures to conern yourself with are 5600 Kelvin (daylight blue) and 3200 Kelvin (tungsten orange). If you're shooting in black and white, then color temperature isn't an issue, but if you're shooting in color, it is. All of your lights need to balanced to one color temperature in order for the overall color scheme of your photo to stay unified. This can be accomplished by placing color correction gels over your light sources.

The Difference Between Hard and Soft Light

Photography light can be broken down into two categories; hard and soft. Hard light occurs when the light from a fixture reaches the subject without anything interrupting it's beam. This creates a very harsh look with lots of shadows.

Soft light occurs when the beam from a fixture either passes through diffusion or gets bounced off of white card. The beam becomes scattered and instead of hitting the subject at a dead on angle, it hits the subject from different directions wrapping around them. One important thing to remember is that when you diffuse a light, you cut down on it's intensity. A heavy diffusion will create a very soft look at the sacrifice of brightness. 

Three Point Lighting

When you are lighting a person's face, a great set up to use is three point lighting. Three point lighting involves using three lights: a key, a fill and a backlight. Out of these three, the key light is the brightest which makes it the first one to set up. You want it to light the more flattering side of the subject's face.

Once the key is in position, then set the fill light. The fill light is positioned to light the dark side of the person's face so that the amount of shadows is reduced. This light should not be as bright as the key and it should not cause double shadows. After the fill is in place, the backlight gets set. It needs to be out of frame and aimed so that it hits the back of the subject's head and shoulders without shining into the camera's lens. The purpose of this light is to make the subject pop out of the background. 

Use Soft Light for Beauty

If you're shooting beauty shots, then you want to light the subject with soft light because the lack of shadows will make the subject appear more flattering. A large diffused light placed directly above the camera will do the trick.