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The word “photography” means to draw with light. “Photo” meaning light, and “graph” to write or draw. When light enters the lens of the camera and hits a light sensitive surface such as the digital sensor or film, the photo is drawn by turning the light into readable information. The information is chemically or electronically processed into an image we can see.



There are different types of lighting which can be natural or artificial, soft or hard. A softer light creates pale, gentle, and minimal shadows because of the larger or diffused light source. A smaller directional light source will create harder lighting with darker and more distinct shadows.


This technique is also called “rim lighting”, and brings shadows into the foreground while creating a warm glow or highlight around the edges of a subject.

Using light from one side of the subject will create gradual lighting from lighter to darker shadows on the opposite side of the lighting. By adding a second light source on the opposite side, it will create a more balanced lighting effect.

Used to create a darker background with the use of shadows made by the subject. If a white background is used, the shadows will change the background to a shade of gray.

Window Light
This is the best lighting for indoor photography. The intensity and position of the sun will determine how hard or soft the lighting will be, but window light can be used for or combined with any of the above techniques.

Balancing Light

One of the biggest challenges is finding the right amount of lighting, with a lack of light being the largest problem. To increase the amount of lighting:

  • Go outside. Cloudy days are best for photography because the clouds act as a natural difuser against harsh sunlight.

  • If indoors, position your subject closer to a window to take advantage of the natural light source. If you don’t have access to a window, try building or using a light box, light tent, flash diffuser, or light reflector.

  • Light reflectors also work to reflect sunlight outdoors to reduce hard shadows.

Using Flash

The most commonly used artificial lighting in photography is the flash. The digital cameras use a built-in light meter to measure the amount of light in a scene. If the camera is in the automatic setting, the flash will pop up when your camera measures an amount of light that reads too low to make a clear photo. The flash on a camera is undiffused and creates a harder light the closer the camera is to a subject. It can flatten the look of the photo and create a harsh glare. The on-camera flash only covers a small area and can be difficult to work with. Professionals use flash as a “fill light”, when a small amount of diffused flash is added to light up the foreground in a scene when the background is well lit.

using Fill Light

On-camera Flash
When the foreground is a little too dark, but your background is well exposed, the on-camera flash can be used as a fill light with the aid of a diffuser. It’s also best to use a camera mode other than fully automatic.

Mode Selection
To have more control over the settings, select a manual or semi-automatic mode such as macro, and turn on the flash.

Diffusing On-camera Flash
Use a white paper or card over the flash to diffuse or redirect the lighting. A larger, softer light will improve foreground lighting without losing details in the subject from harsh shadows and a “blown out” foreground.