Definition of Lighting for Photography

By Sabrina Ehlert
Photographers manipulate light to achieve desired effects.

Light is a fundamental part of photography. Photographers use light in their photographic compositions, sometimes taking advantage of the natural light of their surroundings and other times manipulating light sources to achieve the desired lighting effect.

Types of Lighting

Artificial light is one type of light that photographers use in their compositions.

Photographers use several different types of lighting in order to create the desired effect they are after. The two main types of lighting that photographers use are natural and artificial light. Within the two main types of light, there are other types of light to take into consideration.

Natural Light

Natural light is a preferred light source for many photographers.

Natural light is considered by many photographers to be the best type of lighting. Because natural light encompasses the entire light spectrum, there is little to no color distortion in the photograph. However, natural light is not constant; depending on the time of day, the position of the sun and cloud cover, the look of the light changes.

Artificial Light

Artificial light is used when natural lighting is not appropriate.

Artificial light is more consistent than natural light; however, not all artificial light sources work with the entire light spectrum and can alter how the colors in the photograph look. Types of artificial lights include tungsten, florescent and flash. When using artificial light, photographers will take steps to counteract the unwanted color distortion.

Diffused and Direct Lighting

Direct light hits the subject from one direction.

Controlling the direction of light is important in photography. Direct lighting hits the subject from one direction; it can be a great way to create strong high lights and shadows. Diffused lighting takes the light source and reflects it, so it hits the subject from multiple angles.

Manipulating Light with Filters

Photographers use filters to meet their lighting needs.

Often photographers will use filters to manipulate light further to their needs. To help reduce glare on a sunny day, a photographer may use a polarizing filter on his lens to keep the reflections from shiny surfaces from blowing out the subject she is photographing. Some filters only work with a specific spectrum of light; for example, infrared lenses. An infrared filter only lets in light in the infrared spectrum that it is not seen by the naked eye.

About the Author

Sabrina Ehlert has been a writer and blogger for more than five years. She has been published in Longmont's Daily Times-Call on a number of occasions.