Luminescent Lighting

Lighting is what gives a photograph a personality. As a photographer one should say do I want this photo to be apparent or mysterious, vivid or bland, happy or depressed. These moods can be achieved by knowing how to use the four kinds of lighting.

  1. Diffused lighting – Lighting is spread evenly throughout the photo. Diffused lighting minimizes shadows in photos and ,some times, can eliminate all shadows in photos. Diffused lighting can also reduce the appearance of wrinkles in photos, so many portraits of older subjects use diffused lighting to their advantage. Diffused lighting can be created naturally when the sky is overcast. Since the sunlight is having to travel through a layer of clouds, the light is spread out. Diffused lighting creates a mysterious or bland scene; however, it all depends on the subject. As seen in the photo below there are no apparent shadows and the lighting is mostly even throughout the photo due to an overcast sky.grad
  2. Back lighting – Caused when the light source is located behind the subject. Excellent for creating a sense of drama and for creating silhouettes. Back lighting is simple to achieve, especially around sunrise and sunset. When the sun is at a low position in the sky it is easier to place a subject in between the sun and camera creating back lighting. As seen in the photo below some storm clouds are back lit by the setting sun creating a silhouette of the clouds.clouds
  3. Front lighting – Caused when the light source is in front of the subject. Unfortunately, front lighting places shadows behind the subject and can cause these photos to appear “flat”. The flat feeling is a result of the loss of shadows and makes these photos seem more two dimensional. The photo below is an example of front lighting. Now, while this photo is not exceptionally flat, due to the motion of the water, it is still front lighting.
  4. Side lighting – Caused when the source of lighting is located at one side of a subject. As a result of the source of light coming from one side of the subject, usually one half of the subject will be well lit, while the other half is covered in a shadow. The subjects curves and edges are noticeable allowing for the differentiation of elevation on the subject. Side lighting can cause a three dimensional effect to appear in a photo. Side lighting is also exceptionally good for dramatic photos. As seen below the subject is side lit allowing for parts of the rock formation to be well lit, while other areas are blanketed by shadows.


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5 thoughts on “Luminescent Lighting

    • Ok, with side lighting the source of the light is located on one side of a subject. So, if I am taking a photo of a person with the light coming from one side of their face the other half will be dark. This can be achieved by placing any light on one side of the subject or placing the subject in a position in which a rising or setting sun is located on one side of the subject, thus lighting one half of the subject while leaving a shadow on the other half.

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  1. In the example I provided, well, its difficult to classify the kind of lighting it was. You see, the photo was taken in a canyon so the sunlight was coming from above; however, it did not come down uniformly. The result of the twists and bends in the canyon makes the light to appear to side lighting, but as I explained this one is difficult to classify. I apologize for the confusion, next time I find a more correct answer.


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