Digital Photography Lighting
Lighting for Digital Photography
A photograph is basically a record of the light conditions at a certain period in time and space. The patterns
of colours and shapes that we see in a photograph are instantly recognisable to us because they resemble what we
see in daily life. Light is so commonplace that we take it for granted, but the photographer needs to be attuned to
the refinement of light in order to take outstanding pictures.
What is considered to be white light is in fact made up of all the colours of the spectrum. This is easy to
demonstrate with a prism where, when light is shone through it, it will refract into all the colours of the
rainbow. We can only see rainbows because water droplets are acting as prisms by breaking up the white light from
the sun and splitting it into colours.
All objects only have have differing colours and shades because they reflect some colours while absorbing
others. For instance, black is the complete absence of colour because it absorbs all colours.
White Light shone through a
prism refracting into all
the colours of the rainbow
Even though all light may look alike to us, different light sources emphasise certain parts of the colour
spectrum. For Instance, bright sunlight from late morning to early afternoon has a bluish hue whereas early morning
and late afternoon sunlight is reddish due to it being filtered through the earth's atmosphere.
Artificial light has it's own colour characteristics with Incandescent light bringing out red colours whilst
florescent lighting is a greenish blue tint.
The photographer can take advantage of these varying characteristics when taking photographs. The camera can be
adjusted to compensate for the differing light sources or those light sources can be utilised for artistic
Most digital cameras can be adjusted for colour balance and these adjustments can be set to compensate for any
given light source so that white is true white. This will then allow all other colours to be reproduced accurately.
There may be several colour balance settings including auto, manual, daylight, incandescent and flash.
In some cases you may wish to get a special effect by altering the white setting to a different colour. You can
preview how this will look on the LCD monitor.
Digital Photography Lighting
In digital photography as in conventional photography, the direction of the light source is a very important
consideration. Light can come from the top, behind, below or to the side of the subject and each light source
produces a different effect. As a rule of thumb, a diffused light coming from the sides is a good starting point
when photographing people. This type of light generally occurs in the early morning and the late afternoon.
However, it can also be simulated in the studio by using an umbrella reflector.
You can have good fun with different lighting conditions which can produce all manor of special effects. For
instance, lighting a subject from behind can create a weird halo effect, whilst overhead lighting can produce
strong contrasts between light and shadow.
Another factor which affects photography is the strength of the light. Direct lighting creates strong shadows
whereas a diffused light can create a warm atmosphere by reducing the contrast between objects.
The beauty of digital photography is that you can experiment to your heart's content without running up film or
processing costs. Just experiment with various types of lighting and see what works best for you. You can get great
ideas for lighting by looking through photography books and magazines or even on the internet.