In a world of Instagram and Facebook, people will go to great lengths to get the perfect shot. Those with a passion for photography know that capturing an image through a lens is an art which requires expertise and knowledge on technique.
One of the crucial elements of getting the best picture is having the right light, as argued by the Kodak camera inventor, George Eastman. Good understanding of lighting ratio and lighting pattern can make your picture more flattering. An artist who is well-aware of this phenomenon can use their skills to bring out the best in their work. Photography courses are a great way to learn how to use lighting effectively in your work.
If you have been awe-struck by a well-illuminated picture, read on to find out more about the different types of light and their purpose in photography.
Butterfly lighting is often used in portraits and specifically when the subject happens to be a woman. With a light placed above and in front of the person, this effect creates a butterfly-like shadow under the nose. The result is a face that prominently highlights cheekbones and also gives the illusion of a slimmer face. Butterfly lighting is often used in fashion photography.
Split lighting is typically used to create a dramatic picture and is quite popular in artwork. Here, one-half of the subject’s face is illuminated while the other is cast in shadow. This is a type of side lighting that hits the subject at 90-degree angle, hence, it's useful to look for a line down the centre for the seamless division of the face. This effect looks even better in black and white.
Loop lighting is perhaps the most popular of all the effects and is easily achievable. Here the light is cast at a 45-degree angle, creating a shadow of the subject’s nose on their cheek. Though, the trick is that the nose’s shadow must not touch the shadow of the cheek. This technique compliments everyone and can be learnt through a photography degree.
Rembrandt lighting is famously named after the painter who used this technique to create a triangle of light on the subject’s cheek. In loop lighting, the shadow of nose and cheek never meet whereas, in Rembrandt, the opposite happens. This technique, mostly used on those with fuller faces, casts a triangle that is approximately the size of the nose. It makes the portrait dramatic and gives more definition to the face.
Flat light is a light technique that is devoid of any shadow at all which also makes its usage uncommon. Subjects are made to directly face the light source, making their features well-lit. Considering shadows add life to a portrait and draw out imperfections, you have to be particular about the usage of flat light on those who actually need it. If you are photographing someone with blemishes on the skin or the portrait already has a lot of personality, then flat light works fabulously.
Backlight is a very interesting concept that adds life to any portrait if done correctly. This is where light comes from behind the subject and illuminates the entire frame. Sunset is often the golden hour to do such shoots but with the right equipment and technique, this effect can be generated at any time of the day. There are a few challenges that one can face with backlights such as a hazy picture or lack of clarity, but they can be tackled if you employ the best photography software for the job.
Short light is another useful and brilliant technique that can make your subject’s face look sculpted and add to the appeal of the entire portrait. Here the side of the face is directed towards the camera, giving it 3D qualities and emphasising features such as freckles.
Broad light is the contrary of short light and works well on those who have narrow faces. Here, the face of the subject is placed in such a way that the lit side is closest to the camera. This way the shadow falls on the backside of the face, giving it a fuller look.
For those keen on pursuing a career in photography, adequate knowledge of light technique is crucial. To develop your understanding of all the elements necessary for professional growth in the field of photography, check out the HNC photography course provided by London College of Contemporary Arts.
This article is written by Nandita Kaushal and edited by Emma Chadwick.