ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How light affects photography

Updated on September 18, 2011

Light in Photography

Light is the most important thing in photography. The whole process of photography revolves around light being captured by the sensor or film in your camera. The type of light you are capturing can make a great difference to how the resultant photo turns out.

So it is very important to understand light and how it will affect the final photo.

Warm light

Warm light is where the light has a low color temperature, such as the light at sunset, and tungsten lights. Color temperatures below 3000 kelvin could probably be classified as warm light. This can impart a relaxed and romantic feeling to your photos. Warm light has an orange tint to it.


Warm light is particularly popular for landscape photographs. Naturally it occurs around sunset and sunrise.

For portraits warm light is also popular. This can be achieved by modifying the white balance setting e.g. shooting in bright daylight but using a white balance preset of cloudy or shade.

For flash photography warm light can be created by using a warm gel on the flash unit. This is particularly useful when shooting portraits back lit by the sunset. You need to light up the front of the subject with the flash, and by geling the flash to match the color temperature of the sunset you end up with a much more natural looking photo.

Cool light

Cool light is light with a high color temperature (e.g. above 5000 kelvin). This can be used to give your photos a cold, isolated, and melancholy feeling. Cool light has a blue tint to it.


As with warm light, cool light, such as at twilight and dawn, can be great for landscape photography. If you try taking the same photo in both cool light and warm light, you will find that they have quite different feelings to them.

You probably would not want to photograph a portrait using cool light unless you wanted your subject to look cold. Again, you can make a picture look like it was shot in cooler light than it actually was by adjusting the white balance setting, or using a colored gel (blue) on your flash.

Harsh light

Harsh light is the strong directional light that you often find outdoors at midday. It creates strong shadows, and so is not particularly great for portrait photography. However the strong shadows it creates can be used creatively, particularly when photographing architecture.


Soft light

Soft light is undirectional light. There may still be shadows with soft light, but the shadows do not have a well defined outline.

For this reason soft light is usually preferred for portrait and product photography. It helps to hide (or at least doesn't accentuate) small imperfections such as spots or wrinkles, which would cast strong shadows under harsh light.


Soft light is created by light sources with a large size relative to the subject. Although the sun is a massive light source, it is so far away that it appears as a relatively small light source, which is why it creates harsh light.

A large one meter sized softbox placed 1 meter from a person on the other hand, is much smaller than the sun, but appears as a relatively larger light source, creating a much softer light.

Soft light is usually created either by light filtering through a large diffuser (such as a softbox), or by reflecting light off a large surface. Specialist reflectors for use in photography can be bought for this purpose, or a large piece of card, a ceiling, or wall can also be used as reflectors.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • photographyadvice profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

      Thanks, glad you found them useful!

    • amynichter profile image


      7 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      I am definitely a fan of your hubs! Always looking for inspiration!

    • wytegarillaz profile image


      7 years ago from Australia

      Thanks for an interesting hub, I am always trying to improve my photography. Found you while hub hopping.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)