Five great lighting tips for photographers
- The broader the light source, the softer the light. The narrower the source, the harder the light. A broad light source lessens shadows, reduces contrast, suppresses texture. A narrow light source does the opposite.
- The closer the light source, the softer the light. The farther the source, the harder the light. This stands to reason: Move a light closer, and you make it bigger-that is, broader-in relation to your subject. Move it farther away, and you make it relatively smaller, and therefore more narrow.
- Diffusion scatters light, essentially making the light source broader and therefore softer. When clouds drift in front of the sun, shadows get less distinct. Add fog, and the shadows disappear. Clouds, overcast skies, and fog act as diffusion-something that scatters the light in many directions.
- Bouncing light acts as diffusion. Aim a narrow light source at a broad, matte surface-such as a wall, ceiling, or matte refiector-and it not only refiects the light but also diffuses it by scattering it over a wider area. Use a shiny refiector, though, and the light will stay fairly narrow on the bounce. The most extreme type of shiny refiector-a mirror-will keep the light focused pretty much as narrowly in the refiection.
- The farther the light source, the more it falls off- gets dimmer on your subject. The rule says that light falls off as the square of the distance. That sounds complicated, but isn't really. If you move a light twice as far from your subject, you end up with only one-quarter of the light on the subject.
For more information about photography lighting, contact Pacific Lamp.