Top 10 Most Popular Types of Lighting in Photography

Whether you’re new to photography or have been shooting for a long time, it’s always a good idea to learn about some of the most popular types of lighting in photography.

There are many different photography lighting, and they produce different effects.

And there’s no perfect lighting for every situation. Therefore, we hope this article can help you understand different types of natural and artificial lighting in photography and know how you can determine which to use.

Now, let’s get started!

Two Different Types of Light You Have to Know

First, you have to know that there are two main types of light: natural and artificial.

The former is anything that happens without human intervention. For example, it could be the direct sunlight on a glaring day, the diffused light produced on a cloudy or foggy day, or even the light of the moon at night.

Both natural and artificial light in photography can be used to create any kind of lighting, as long as you know how to use them.

The primary advantage of artificial light is that you can move it around and adjust it to suit your situation.

In other words, it’s easier to position artificial light relative to your subject than natural light. If you use natural light in photography, you have to move your subject and camera according to the lighting technique you want to use.

Top 10 Most Popular Types of Lighting in Photography

Front Light (or Flat Light)

Front Light (or Flat Light)
Front Light (or Flat Light)

The first type of lighting in photography is front light. This occurs when the light source is directly in front of the subject. Therefore, it often only creates a small amount of shadows. The light is evenly spread over the photo, with no part exposed more or less than the rest.

Front light can be good for portraiture, especially if your subject has creases or marks that you want to blur.

However, if you want to create a portrait that shows a lot of personalities, this lighting technique won’t provide the details you need to bring your subject’s character to life.

Symmetry photography can also benefit from using front light since the lack of shadows helps make both the subject’s sides appear more symmetrical.

Backlight (or Backlit)

Backlight (or Backlit)
Backlight (or Backlit)

This occurs when the light source is behind the subject. In other words, your subject is in between the light source and your camera.

The potential downside of backlight in photography is that the white balance can be off, resulting in a loss of detail in the subject.

This works well for shadows. However, if you want the subject to show more details, it’s best to pull out a light diffuser to reflect some of the background light onto the front of your subject.

Soft Light

Soft Light

This occurs when your light source is diffused. Therefore, the effect is more subtle than when using a direct light source.

Using soft light in photography, you have fewer dark shadows, if any, and lower contrast between the highlights and shadows in your photographs.

You can use a diffusion panel between the subject and light source if you’re working in a studio. It can even be a light-colored curtain on the window to diffuse the incoming natural sunlight.

If you’re shooting outdoors, soft light will appear naturally on a cloudy day since clouds diffuse direct sunlight.

Hard Light

Hard Light

In contrast to soft light, this occurs when the light source is pointed directly at the subject. It produces high contrast, dark shadows, and bright whites.

You can take advantage of the midday sun to create hard light. If you’re in a studio, you can also produce this type of lighting using a spotlight or other light source that is not diffused.

Rim Light

Rim Light

Top 10 Most Popular Types of Lighting in Photography

You can create rim light using a form of backlighting, where the light is at an angle from above or behind. This technique is helpful to distinguish the subject from the background.

Rim light, together with backlight, can be excellent types of lighting in photography to play with shadows in your images.

Depending on the direction of the light, it hits the subject in a way that creates a glowing highlight or outline around it.

Position the light source behind or above the subject and adjust until you see a light outline appear. Higher contrast accentuates the rim light, while low contrast reduces the effect.

You can pull out a reflector to provide more light to the front of the subject if it’s not detailed enough.

Broad Lighting

Broad Lighting

This is commonly used for graduation photos. Broad lighting in photography is a type of sidelight where your subject’s side closest to the camera is illuminated, and the side farther away is in the dark.

When shooting portraits, this lighting technique can be helpful for models with a thinner face since the side with the light will look larger than the side with shadows, resulting in a fuller countenance.

Short Lighting

Short Lighting

This is the exact opposite of broad lighting. Specifically, the subject’s side closest to your camera is in the dark, while the side furthest is in the light.

In portrait photography, instead of creating a fuller face shape, short lighting thins out the face. Therefore, be cautious about when and how both of these techniques are used.

Split Lighting

Split Lighting

Split lighting occurs when the light hits the subject at a 90-degree angle. This creates a straight line between the subject

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, making one side dark and the other bright.

You have to make sure that the subject is being hit by the light at an angle to get this effect. This is usually done with artificial lights and reflectors.

You can also use filters to block out glare that hard lights can create. A diffuser can also be utilized to create a subtler effect.

Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt Lighting

This lighting technique is named for the way Rembrandt used light in his portrait paintings.

Similar to split lighting, this is a type of side lighting, except that the shadowed side of the face has a light triangle under the eye. This can be highly effective in making 2D photos with lights appear 3D.

Loop Lighting

Loop Lighting

This is one of the most popular types of portrait lighting. The term refers to a shadow “loop” on the nose.

Loop lighting in portrait photography is generally considered a less dramatic and fierce choice than some of the other options listed.

This lighting technique is pretty flattering. Therefore, if you have a lot of portrait appointments in a day, this is a great trick you should use. Just place your light at a 45-degree angle and slightly above the model’s eye level.

You can experiment by moving the light source up and down. The intensity of the shadows can be adjusted by moving the light closer to or away from the subject.

Choose the Best Types of Lighting for Your Photography

You now have a clear understanding of different types of lighting in photography, what they do, and when to use them. It’s time to start practicing your new skills!

No one lighting technique will work great in all situations. For example, you’ll need a much different lighting setup if you’re shooting real estate outside instead of portraiture in your home studio.

In other words, there’s no best lighting for photography. As you practice and become more confident in determining what type of lighting is best for what situations, you’ll be able to quickly determine which to use based on your setting, subject, and overall concept.