How to Properly Use Lights in Photography




About: Student aspiring to be a Director Of Photography. Check out my website if you feel like it.

You can't have an image without light. It is essential to your photography. Without proper lights you could have your photos turn out badly and looking unprofessional. This tutorial will show you how to make different lighting setups.

Step 1: One Light Photography

This is a basic one light setup. Notice how the light is placed at approximately 45 degrees from the subject. The light is supposed to light the front half of the subject's face, casting a shadow on one side of the face. This can be used to achieve a dramatic effect.

Step 2: Two Lights From the Front

This technique is used to evenly light the setup. Notice both the lights are evenly spaced and at 45 degrees from the subject. This will let you have a proper headshot of the subject.

Step 3: Two Lights, Adding a Rim Light

To give a dramatic edge to your one light photo, you can add what is called a rim light. The rim light allows you to have a little bit of light spilling from behind the subject. You can see it spilling out from behind the subject. Notice it is exactly opposite to the first light.

Step 4: Two Rim Lights

If you want to get a really dramatic photo, you can use both of your lights as rim lights. Place both lights 45 degrees behind your subject to achieve this effect.

Step 5: Two Rim Lights, Adding a Reflector

To add a bit more light to the front of the subject's face, you can add a reflector to the shot. Using the two rim light setup, add a silver reflector to the front. Angle it so that it catches the light and reflects onto the subject's face.

Step 6: One Light, Adding a Reflector

For this setup the light is placed slightly higher and angled down at 45 degrees. The reflector is placed opposite, slightly under the subject so that it fills out some of the shadows under the subject's chin and on the side of his face.

Step 7: Experiment

The best thing to do is just try things. Experiment with different lighting setups and see what works well for you. If you would like to experiment with any of these lighting setups you can always try them on this super useful site which I was using for the lighting diagrams. I am not associated or sponsored in any way.

Please leave questions or comments and I will answer everything to the best of my ability.

Thanks for reading!

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    7 Discussions

    Ben jee ub

    2 years ago

    Nice! Inspiring!


    2 years ago

    I am going to do this for sure! Now I'm going to have some decent shots!!!!!!!


    2 years ago

    Short, sweet and to the point. Well written 'ible!


    2 years ago

    Setting up a studio this is great information. Thanks for taking the time to share this.


    2 years ago

    Great instructable! Those are really good illustrations of how the light changes the shot. :)

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks so much for your feedback!