Photography Lighting Techniques | NZ Photo Art

Photography Lighting Techniques

The colour, direction, quantity and quality of the light determine how the product appears.

Front lighting

This may seem to be a universal recipe for good photography, but it is not. Front lighting produces a flattened effect, doing nothing to bring out detail or providing an impression of depth. The human eye sees in three dimensions and can compensate for poor lighting. A photograph is only two-dimensional; therefore, to give an impression of form, depth and texture to the product, you should ideally have the light coming from the side or at least at an angle.

Side Lighting

Interesting effects can be achieved by changing the angle of the light falling on your product. Side lighting is wonderful for showing texture and adding depth to a photo.

Look at a brick wall, first with front lighting and then with side lighting. Front lighting shows the pattern of the bricks and mortar in a flat, uninformative way, while side lighting creates shadows in every little crevice. The effect increases as the light is more parallel with the wall until long shadows fall from the smallest irregularity in the brickwork. This can give an almost 3-D effect to a photograph. Shadows caused by side lighting reveal details that can create striking pictures of ordinary objects that are otherwise hardly worth photographing.



Backlighting refers to the process of illuminating the product from the back. In other words, the light and the camera are facing towards each other, with the product in between. This causes the edges of the product to glow, while the other areas remain darker. The back light is usually placed directly behind the subject in a 4-point lighting setup. Backlighting is also used to produce a silhouette effect.


Painting with light

Painting with light is a creative photography technique where you selectively illuminate parts of the product with a hand-held light source, to add emphasis and colour to certain parts of the product during a long exposure. Painting with light requires a slow shutter speed, usually a few seconds and exposures are made in a darkened room.



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