Different Types of Lighting in Photography

Different Types of Lighting in Photography

Different Types of Lighting in Photography

If photography is defined as a painting work, lighting will then the painting brush. Because without lighting technique, photography is totally useless and incomplete.

Lighting can make a photograph accurate and attractive, which is mandatory for taking any shot. In this article, you can take valuable ideas about the lighting in photography, its different types, and when they should be used as well as how they affect your photography.

What Is Photography Lighting?

Photography lighting refers to the technique that determines the point of light source. It can be natural or manmade. Everything, including brightness, color, and attitude, could be influenced mostly by the angle and quality of lighting in the ultimate photograph.

Photography lighting is a broad term that encompasses many different types of equipment and techniques. To truly master your photography lighting setup, you should have a good understanding of all the different system components available.

What does light mean in photography?

Lighting is defined as the most important ingredient in the field of Photography.  As a matter of fact, the two words of the Greek language ‘lighting and painting’ were combined to make the term photography.

Photographers capture light waves on a light-sensitive material to produce a picture. Because it is impossible to take a proper shot without lighting. 

You would be a great photographer by the two techniques:

  • Give heed to the way light interacts with your subject's curves and angles.
  • Understand properly which sections of the image are brightened and which are dark.

Because through these processes, you'll begin to understand the best way to utilize the light source for just any specific project and configuration.

How Does Lighting Affect Your Photography?

Whether you are going to make portrait photographs, landscapes, or still life photographs, the fact is that your lighting decisions will be influenced by these two things.

The first thing is the features and characteristics of your subject, and the second thing is how you wish them to make an appearance in your photograph.

For example, hard light is sharper, and it will highlight curves and any surfaces that's not totally leveled, like a seashore wave or a supermodel with skin problems. However, soft light will soothe comparable imperfections.

Why is lighting important in photography?

Lighting plays a key role in the making of flourishing photos. Because it affects the tone, mode, and environment in addition to the brightness and darkness.

You must have effective knowledge to control and regulate lighting to achieve the best appearance, color vibrancy, and luminosity. By utilizing shadows and highlights, you can make a lot of professional photographs.

What is the use of light in photography?

It is necessary to have affluent knowledge about the use of lighting, such as shaping, positioning, and manipulating light in photography. Because a good lighting sense plays the most important role in the making of remarkable and outstanding photos.

In positioning light, the source of your light has such a significant influence on the fact that it drops on the subject. Light coming from the lens and staring right at the subject produces extremely flat lighting.

In the context of shaping light, applying a diffusion to the source of light can help to decrease glaring and sharp shadows, as well as blur flaws on the object.

It makes the artificial light appear smoother and more organic. This can be done by making use of softboxes, parasols, and so on.  

What are the different types of lighting in photography?

In photography, there are various kinds of lights, which produce diverse results. You should have proficient knowledge about when and how to use what sorts of lights.

Natural Light 

Natural light means the sort of light that creates illumination instead of any human intervention. It could be the light melted directly from the sun in the daytime and from the moon at nightfall. Also, it could be the light diffused by clouds or fog.

What is meant by natural light in Photography?

In photography, there are mainly two types of lighting: natural light and artificial light. Natural light is described as a lighting that would be created naturally without any manual interference.

In addition, this organic lighting could be perfect for taking a photographic shot, and there is no need to create any artificial light.

Flat light

Flat light means when the source of light directly throws illumination in front of the subject. It usually happens when there are no shadows in the bright light, also in the shadows, when no straight dazzling light is available. Flat light is distinct from soft or harsh light.

What is flat light in photography? 

The type of illumination which originates directly on the front side of the object instead of variations is commonly known as flat light.  This kind of lighting usually necessitates the use of artificial lighting to keep it more delightful.

It is widely utilized in the photography of everyday life, like portraits and product pictures. 

When should you use flat lighting?

If you want to use flat light during photography you must have an appropriate sense of when this kind of lighting should be utilized.

  • Flat lighting could be helpful in making portraits, particularly when the subject is hidden by wrinkles or flaws.
  • Another advantage of applying flat light is that it helps in making two parts of the face look better identical. If you're interested in symmetrical photography, it would be beneficial.


Backlighting in photography refers to a recognized light technique in which the source of light spreads illumination behind any subject in order to create deep effects like separating the subject from its background.

What is backlighting in photography?

Backlit photography occurs when the source of light focuses directly behind your object, and the object is precisely between both your camera and light.

It is an excellent time to start playing with lengthy shadows and silhouettes in any photography.

When should you use a backlight?

In photography, backlighting could be a great option in some cases:

  • If you wish to highlight a product, such as jewelry or any book, by making a rim glow around it, then it could be great for you.
  • If you desire to apply backlighting for outdoor portraits, neglect the skies, adjust the skin colors of your body, and shoot in the golden hour.

Short Lighting

Short lighting is defined as a lighting process in which the distant part of an object’s face would be bright. In this context, the closest side of the camera will be in shadow and darkness, and the distant side will be in the light.

What is short lighting in photography?

When light shines from behind and illuminates only one side of the face of a person, it is called short light. Short lighting is totally different from broad lighting.

It is fundamentally utilized in making classic portrait photography.

When should you use Short Lighting? 

Short lighting would be helpful in some contexts:

  • If you want to make the nearest side of the camera dark and the distant side of the camera lighted.
  • Without making the shape of a fuller face, short lighting might spread out the face. So be careful when and how you should utilize it.

Broad Lighting

Broad light refers to a sort of illuminating technique in which one side of the face would be more brightened being closest to the camera. In addition to this, it also creates shadows in the further side of the face.

What is Broad Lighting in Photography?

Board light means a pattern of photographic illumination approach wherein the illumination is slanted down only the closest side of the camera from a broad source of light.

In photography, the broad lighting process is almost different from short light.

When should you use Broad Lighting?

There are numerous moments when you can use broad lighting:

  • To make graduation photos, people frequently use this sort of lighting.
  • This technique is more fruitful for the subject that has a thin face. Because the lighted side will look more outstanding than the dark side.

Split Lighting

Split lighting could be defined as a photographic lighting approach in which one part of the face would be lighted in contrast to the other part would be left in dark and shadows.

It usually happens when the main light is set up far from one side of the object as well as when fill light is abolished entirely.

What is split lighting in Photography? 

In photography, when the light falls upon the object at a 90 ° angle, it is called split lighting. This type of lighting draws a direct line across the face of an object,  wherever you can find one side entirely delighted and the other side almost darkened.

When should you use split lighting?

Split light is used for some reasons:

  • To create a dramatic portrait as well as to make a large face look smaller.
  • In the photography of the fashion sector, in order to emphasize glamor.

Rim Light

Rim lighting means a technique when a light is positioned at the back of a subject and illuminates the outline of it. This lighting process emphasizes a subject's outlines and makes a stunning and ominous impact. 

What is Rim light in Photography?

In photography, the rim light is created by backlighting from the subject at a certain position.  According to your direction, this lighting will strike your subject and create a brilliant highlight across it.

When should you use a rim light?

You can use rim light in a number of ways:

Loop Lighting

Loop lighting is a lighting technique that forms a round shade on the face of a subject immediately around the nose, neck and chin. A smooth, diffusing light source is frequently utilized to make loop lighting in photographic work.

What is loop lighting?

Loop lighting technique is indeed considered in making portrait photography. Photographers usually consider this technique less dramatic than the other lighting method. Loop lighting helps to make a portrait stunning.

In order to create a portrait photograph, loop lighting plays a mandatory role. You can make loop lighting with just a single source of light.

It flatters the loop lights and makes it more interesting for portraiture shooting.

Why do photographers use loop lighting?

Loop light includes a simple setup.

  • Loop lighting is usually used to make portrait photography.
  • It is precisely attractive for face shapes. It assists in recognizing lengthening cheekbones.

Fill Lighting

A fill light in photography refers to a lighting process which reveals the features and shapes of a subject that are hidden by the main beam's shadow. In a typical three-point luminaire system, fill light is the secondary source.

What is fill lighting in Photography?

The term fill light is usually known for a technique that uses a lighting source to enlighten any shadows of a subject.

In the typical three-point illuminating configuration, fill light is really a single source. It could be a deciding factor in any illumination setup.

When should you use Fill Lighting?

Fill light could be used at any time, such as during daytime or sunset. But it could be best for use in some contexts.

  • This lighting could be used to calculate the brightness, thickness, and depth levels.
  • Also, it is more useful to generate a more uniform illumination and to highlight the features and shapes of a subject.

Butterfly Lighting

Butterfly lighting is a portrait lighting technique in which the primary light is positioned above and focused downward on the face of the subject. It makes a stunning shadow beneath the chin and nose of a subject.

What is Butterfly Lighting?

In photography, butterfly lighting means when the key light is placed above and gives attention to the face of a subject, especially to make portrait photography.

For molding face shape, butterfly lighting is the most appealing illumination approach.

When should you use Butterfly Lighting?

As an attractive lighting method, butterfly lighting is used in some special sectors.

  • This lighting is widely used in celebrity portraits and photographs.
  • It will also add the same level of intensity to the other facial characteristics.

Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt lighting is a sort of side lighting that reflects with a rectangle of illumination under the eye side of the face, and produces attractive light with less equipment, and which is in some cases similar to split lighting.

What is Rembrandt Lighting in Photography?

Rembrandt lighting refers to a technique that generates perfectly natural and captivating photographs with less item. It could be made with only one light and reflector. 

In studio portrait photography and filmmaking, Rembrandt lighting is a standard lighting method.

When should you use Rembrandt Lighting?

This sort of lighting is helpful:

  • To make any mystifying, capricious, and dramatic portraits.
  • To give a two-dimensional picture a three-dimensional appearance.

Soft Light

Soft lighting is a light source that is warm but harmonious, with little strong edges. In the process of soft lighting, the movement among shadows and lights seems more like a spectrum and considerably softer.

What is Soft Light Photography?

Soft lighting happens when a source of light is diffused, resulting in a more subtle effect than with a straight light source.

Soft light will result in fewer, if any, dramatic shadows and a smaller distinction between both the darks and lights in your photograph.

When should you use Soft Light?

Soft light is indeed more authentic and indigenous than hard light.

  • It is more useful to create portraiture and fashion photography.
  • It is also beneficial to make food and travel photography.

Hard light

Hard light refers to a strong lighting technique which spreads dazzling shadows and focuses on the exact part of the subject. In this process, the adaptation between light and shadow could be hard and clarified.

What is Hard Light Photography?

In photography, hard lighting is a process which provides harsh shadows and effective contrast, and produces dramatic and edgy visuals. It is the absolute opposite of soft light.

In this process, the shift between light and shadow in hard illumination is particularly sharp as well as distinct. Your subject's outline would create a clear, sharp shade when illuminated in hard light.

When should you use Hard light?

Hard light has numerous variety of dimensions:

  • You can use hard lighting to make your subject more serious-looking.
  • You can use it to provide a gritty and tricky shadow to your subject.

Side Lighting

Side lighting means a lighting process of side illumination is applied to give the object more contour and dimension. The light is coming from the side of the subject, giving it a multi appearance.

What is side lighting?

Side lighting is an illumination method that focuses on the one edge of an object. The angle of side lighting is determined by the subject's position or the light's position but is ultimately characterized by exposing only one side of a subject.

Why do photographers use side lighting?

Side light could be used for several purposes:

  • It is beneficial for enhancing the shape of a subject.
  • It is also more helpful for creating a glazing impact on any shiny material, including jewelry.

What are the different types of studio lighting?

When planning to set up a photography studio you need to keep in mind the light of photography. Studio lights are any type of luminaires used by shooters to improve the photography, usually in a studio. There are several different types of studio lighting that you can use, but it is important to know what each type is and how they're used.

Different Types of Photography Lighting

Below we will try to give you a brief rundown of the common types of lights used in photography studios and the situations you might use them for.

Key Light

Key light is usually a one-directed illumination. It can also be multi-dimensional, with numerous lights arriving from distinct shapes on either part of the object, confirming that they are luminous from every viewpoint.

Fill Light

A fill light in photography refers to a lighting process which reveals the features and shapes of a subject that are hidden by the main beam's shadow. In a typical three-point luminaire system, fill light is the secondary source.

Hair Light / Separation Light / Kicker

Kicker light is a light that highlights the edges of a subject. This light should just drop on a tiny segment of the body, such as the hairline. The light will be made limited to avoid hitting a significant portion of the object.

Background light

The background light is an illumination process in which the source of light focuses directly behind the subject. In this lighting, the subject takes place precisely between both the camera and light.

Camera Mounted Flash

A Camera Mounted flash is just a form of flashing light that could be connected straightly to the camera. It's great that all modern cameras have built in pop-up flashes, but there are times when you'll want more control over your light. This is when a camera-mounted flash becomes useful!


What is the best light for taking pictures?

If you utilize proper lighting in taking pictures, you should have a proficient lighting sense of photography. Because the best lighting option will vary according to your photograph’s type and the environment.

How many types of lights are there in photography?

There are more than fifty types of photography lighting, such as backlighting, flat lighting, soft lighting, hard lighting, and so on.

What are the two types of lighting in photography?

The main two types of lighting in photography are natural lighting and artificial lighting.

Natural lighting means when there is no human interference to create any lighting for photography.

In contrast, artificial lighting refers to the lighting technique which is created by human intervention by using various equipment.

Which types of light should you use for a portrait?

Photographers mostly use some effective lighting techniques for a portrait. They are Flat lighting, Loop lighting, Rembrandt lighting, Short lighting, Broad lighting, Butterfly lighting, etc.

What are the types of natural photography light?

There are different kinds of natural photography lights available, such as backlighting, shade lighting, side lighting, direct lighting, etc.

What is the top light in photography?

Top lighting in photography refers to a strong beam shining straight down on the subject to make a dramatic and mysterious scene.

How important is studio lighting in photography?

Studio lighting plays an important role in photography. Because in some cases, there is no way to take a photoshoot outdoors.

Final Word

Lighting is essential for making any photograph. Good photography is all about working with light, so having a better grasp on this aspect of the craft can benefit you. Having a proficient lighting sense, a photographer can achieve professional-level results.

Hope this article has helped you understand the types of lighting and their usage.

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Towab Muhamamd Yusuf - March 15, 2023

This is a great article. Very insightful. Thanks for the post.

Clipping Path - March 15, 2023

Thanks for sharing your skills and techniques. Thank you for your suggestions!

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