When it comes to photography, lighting is one of the most important elements. It can make or break a photo, and it's essential to understand the different types of lighting and how to use them. There are 8 main types of photographic lighting: flat light, ambient light, open shadow, ample lighting, wide lighting, short lighting, split lighting, and edge lighting. Flat light is when the light source is directly facing the front of the subject.
This type of lighting works especially well for portrait photography as it allows the natural appeal of the subject to shine. To set it up, simply place the light in front of and slightly above the subject's face and tilt it until it is “flat” on the face. Ambient light is defined as lighting that the photographer does not add to the scene. Sunlight can be ambient lighting, but so can a streetlight or moonlight.
The objective of ambient lighting is usually to obtain soft, evenly distributed light that can bounce from one surface to another. This type of lighting works especially well for landscape photography. You can use modifiers to reflect it or move around the subject until you get the desired lighting. Ample lighting is actually a type of side lighting where the best-illuminated side of the subject faces the camera and the least illuminated side is away from the camera. Wide lighting is also a technique that provides more contrast to the image than other types of lighting.
Short lighting is the opposite of wide lighting and is where the shadow falls on the side of the face closest to the camera. This technique is flattering for most face types and works well to make a full face look slimmer. Split lighting is when the light source hits the subject from one side at an angle of ninety degrees, creating a division of light and shadow: half of the subject will be in the light and the other half in the shadow. The backlight is just what it sounds like: the light source is behind the subject. It can be used to create silhouettes or combined with certain weather conditions for more dramatic images. Edge lighting is when light hits the subject at an angle so that it creates reflections along the edges of the subject.
This highlights the shape of the subject and is an excellent technique for separating it from its background. Loop lighting is another reference technique for portrait photography because it favors almost all subjects. Accent lighting is used to accentuate a particular feature or achieve a desired effect. A divided lighting pattern is created when half of a model's face is illuminated by a soft light source while the other half is in shade. This effect is usually used in glamor and lingerie sessions to draw attention to a model's eyes and create a more sensual environment. Soft light is created by diffusing a light source with an umbrella or diffused lens.
It creates light with a wide, diffused focus in a subject's eyes which is perfect for portrait photography. The soft lighting creates a warm and pleasant light effect that is perfect for shooting indoors.