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The Camera in My Head - Photography Tips Series #1 Lighting

Updated on February 11, 2015

Lighting Tips in Photography

The following examples of lighting may be helpful in your quest to take a winning picture. You will see examples of peek-a-boo light that causes beautiful rays. Lighting on subjects is fleeting and is usually best when it comes at an angle so it casts a defining shadow. Additionally, lighting at night requires a steady hand and sometimes additional exposure.

See some of my examples, and read on...

Glare can be a good thing

Draper Park, UT
Draper Park, UT | Source
San Jose, CA
San Jose, CA | Source
Normandy, France
Normandy, France | Source
Redwoods, CA
Redwoods, CA | Source
Utah sky
Utah sky | Source
Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT
Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT | Source
Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT
Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT | Source
Salt Lake City, UT Dragonfly
Salt Lake City, UT Dragonfly | Source
Draper, UT
Draper, UT | Source

Using glare in photography

Sometimes it is just a matter of taking a step forward or backward in order to get the sunlight to slightly peek from around an object just enough to send out some rays of sunlight.

As you can see in these examples, sometimes there is just the right amount of light and the rays are very prominent. In the example of the Lighthouse, there was just a bit too much light, and the rays look more like a glare. In person, and with a quick review on the camera, it looked fine, however the best shot was missed.

Lesson: Take several pictures trying to capture various amounts of peeking light. One of them is likely to be amazing.

Light from the side gives great definition

Sunlight from behind a subject can cause problems with exposure, however sunlight from the side is your friend. It adds interest and definition.

Additionally, when the light is from a sunset, the air can actually appear to be golden. Let that golden light fall on luminescent hair or another reflective surface, and you've got a winner.

Here some of my examples of light usage. Notice which ones are better because of the angle of the light.

Examples of back-lighting and lighting from the side

Sunlight behind illuminates Harvey's hair.
Sunlight behind illuminates Harvey's hair. | Source
Side lighting and good timing make this one a winner.
Side lighting and good timing make this one a winner. | Source
Capturing a pensive moment with excellent lighting adds emotion to this photograph.
Capturing a pensive moment with excellent lighting adds emotion to this photograph. | Source
Half Dome, Yosemite is lit with a golden light because of the sunset causing it.
Half Dome, Yosemite is lit with a golden light because of the sunset causing it. | Source
The subtle lighting here helps tell a story of the joy of motherhood.
The subtle lighting here helps tell a story of the joy of motherhood. | Source
The light in this medieval shop in a castle in France shining on a hood from a Templar Knight seemed almost magical.
The light in this medieval shop in a castle in France shining on a hood from a Templar Knight seemed almost magical. | Source
Light from a sunset makes all it touches golden. Twin Peaks, UT
Light from a sunset makes all it touches golden. Twin Peaks, UT | Source

Taking pictures at night

The trick to taking pictures at night and having them turn out can be tricky with a phone or a point-n-shoot camera. There are great tools like a "unipod" which will give stability to night photos. Sometimes I set my camera on something solid to help.

If your camera allows for extended exposure, that is a great way to collect more light and give more definition. If your point of interest is not moving, you can get a truly stunning image. If you would like the artwork of lines of light, keep the shutter open while tracking the movement of the lights.

Additionally, remember that the position of the light source should not be shining directly into the camera lens. Nor should it be shining from directly behind the camera. Angles are always better.

Photographs at night

Accent lights on the Salt Lake LDS Temple
Accent lights on the Salt Lake LDS Temple | Source
Reflective lighting on statues at Nauvoo, IL
Reflective lighting on statues at Nauvoo, IL | Source
Background lighting makes a silhouette of a sailboat near Waikiki, HI
Background lighting makes a silhouette of a sailboat near Waikiki, HI | Source
Holiday lighting on Historic Schoolhouse, This is the Place park, UT
Holiday lighting on Historic Schoolhouse, This is the Place park, UT | Source
Night lights with two focal points, Oakland LDS Temple, CA
Night lights with two focal points, Oakland LDS Temple, CA | Source
Camera propped on a car for stability.
Camera propped on a car for stability. | Source
Sunset provides back lighting to Kansas City LDS Temple, MO
Sunset provides back lighting to Kansas City LDS Temple, MO | Source

Lessons learned about lighting in photography

  • Take lots of photos to capture just the right lighting.
  • Don't be afraid to move, duck, try different angles, and experiment with light.
  • Source of light can cause interesting shadows, golden color enhancement, and fabulous beams.
  • Make sure to have a steadying source for evening photographs with lights. Play with the shutter speed. Faster shutter will capture fireworks. Slower shutter speed works well for stationary focal points. Moving lights can also be captured with a slow shutter speed.

Don't be afraid to experiment!

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