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Photography Tip: Tips on How to Shoot in Various Lighting

Techniques/ Tips

Photography Tip: Tips on How to Shoot in Various Lighting

Photography Tips

No matter if you are a professional photographer or picking up the camera for the first time, lighting is very important to think about when wanting to capture the perfect picture.

Start by assessing the environment around you, stand back and take a real look at what you want to photograph. After some experience and repetition of doing this you may eventually be able to envision what the final image will look like before snapping the actual shot.

Some good questions to ask yourself are:

Is the person or object evenly lit? Is the main subject you want to photograph strongly backlit? Is it a dark grounded area alongside a bright skyline? Is the sun in front of you or behind you?

To avoid over or under exposure you have to stop yourself from just point and shooting.

Tip #1 – Move yourself around!
Move around the main subject if you can. See if it looks better from a different angle or perspective. Be aware of how the light alters as you move.

Tip #2- Zooming
Trying zooming in to crop out any light or dark areas in the viewer. This will help the camera to meter the scene more evenly. You can always zoom in, take a reading, set the exposure lock, zoom back out and shoot the full scene as well.

Tip #3- Adding subjects/props to balance light
If the shot appears too bright you can add something darker to the foreground to level out the image some more.

Different Types of Lighting


If your subject is heavily backlit, you have a few options open to you;

1- You can take the picture with “evaluative” metering leaving a well-exposed background and underexposed or “silhouetted” subject.

2- You can take the picture with “evaluative” metering but also use fill-in flash to lighten the subject. This way you get a perfectly exposed all round the image.

3- Instead of a flash, you can also use a reflector to brighten the subject, very natural and effective.

4- To get the opposite effect of option 1 you can use center-weighted or spot metering to take a reading from just the subject. This will expose the subject well but leave the background over exposed.

Backlit female (underexposed and “silhouetted”)

Side lighting

When shooting any subject with side lighting you are going to end up with deep shadows. These shadows may enhance the type of mood you are capturing in some scenes and be quite effective, but for “people photography” this can sometimes be quite unflattering.

The best way to deal with such lighting is to try the tactic in back lighting. Move your subject or try using a fill-in flash.

Dramatic Side Lighting

Top heavy lighting

As with side lighting, you are going to get shadows on most subjects. If trying to capture the mood mentioned above you can try just taking the shot. If not try taking a few shots using different techniques; the beauty of photography is that no two subjects and no two lighting situations are ever exactly the same.

Each photographer has his or her own techniques and preferences so only practice what will bring out your own personal and unique style. One of the most important rules though to remember is that you do not have to always follow the rules.

Top heavy light

Full frontal lighting

This type of lighting is the most pleasing for all subject matter. (i.e. the light source is behind the camera), and this is the easiest to expose correctly, there are times when it can cause its own problems though.

The full frontal lighting on “people” can cause them to squint causing facial lines and small eyes. To avoid the squinting you can try the same technique you would for backlighting the image and try the fill-in flash.

If the subject is anything other than human, the standard evaluative metering is best with the sun behind to take an overall reading from the entire scene.  We suggest trying all types of lighting to expand your experience. Shoot into the sun and have fun trying other angles. Shooting in to the sun will cause the camera to do a “digital squint” much like you would, and expose for the sun and the sky leaving the foreground darker.

Frontal lighting of a Sunflower

All round lighting

When you are in a location with all around lighting you can play around with your exposure setting and try different aperture settings to create different interesting depth of field variations. You can use evaluative metering for an all round reading of the scene.

All around lighting on the beach

Dusk or Dawn/Sunset or Sunrises

If you are in the situation of dying or little light, your normal readings are going to give you slow shutter speeds and wide apertures. This means you will need to use a tripod. If there is no visible sun, but a nice even glow, take a normal reading of the entire scene.

When shooting into a setting or rising sun, try using the standard evaluative metering.

If you are able to take a spot or center-weighted reading from the sun itself, you will end up with a well-exposed beautiful dark orange/golden sun, framed by near darkness as the camera exposes for the sun only.

With an evaluative setting it will give you an overall average helping you get a well-exposed sunset/sunrise with a slightly overexposed sun.

With an evenly spread exposure, especially when shooting RAW, you can really enhance and improve the image to get it spot on.

Golden sunset shot
These are just a few of Duggal’s suggestions and ideas to aid you in exploring the world of photography. There are many ways to approach photography and countless ways to capture the image you want.  Please feel free to share some of your own ideas and comments.

Other Photography Tips:

How to Use the Rule of Thirds

Focal Points

How to Get More Out of Your Point and Shoot Camera