Photography Lighting Techniques

"There are many different photography lighting techniques:
flash or strobe, soft-box, light tent, controlled natural
lighting, and many more."


Flash Photography

The most common of the photography lighting techniques is flash or strobe. The difference between flash and strobe is that flash is a single burst of controlled light and strobe lighting is a repeated flash. Strobe lighting is often used in portraits to constrict the subject’s iris and reduce the possibility of red-eye. Posing Secrets In portrait photography, direct flash should not be used. A direct flash from the camera or flash mount tends to flatten the Flash Mountcharacteristics if the subject. Reflectors (flat or umbrella) can be used to diffuse the intense flash and should be used at angles from both sides of the subject.

It is important to have lighting angled from both sides to reduce shadows that may appear behind the subject.

If a studio setup with reflectors is not practical, a top mount flash (boot), like the one to the right, should be used to bounce the light off of a ceiling and create a more natural lighting effect. Bouncing the light off the ceiling also helps to reduce shadows behind the subject.

Soft-box Lighting

A soft-box is commonly a wood framed box with thin material or rice paper stretched over the openings in the frame.

The box is placed over a flash or continuous light source to diffuse the intense light and create a softer, more natural lighting effect.

Light Tent

Light tents are used for product and macro photography. The construction of a light tent is similar to the soft-box. There is a solid box frame with thin (usually white) material or rice paper stretched over the openings with the front left open.

The subject is placed inside the box and the light sources are on the outside of the box. This allows the photographer to completely control the lighting in the shot. The material stretched over the frame diffuses the light and reduces shadows and glare.

Controlled Natural Lighting

The last of our photography lighting techniques covers control of natural lighting.

When photographing outdoors, it is usually best to use natural lighting. This does not mean that the photographer has no control over the lighting in the scene.

Light reflectors can still be used to help reduce unwanted shadows. While this may take some practice, it is often easier if someone just out of the scene helps the photographer by using a hand-held reflector.

I have also seen larger light tents constructed to cover a larger subject outdoors. The front and back of the tent was left open. The top and sides were made of thin white muslin. Reflectors were used to control the intensity of the natural light.

This construction allowed the photographer to control the lighting of the subjects and create some amazing beach portraits.

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