Whether you’re a professional or rookie photographer, there are tried-and-true techniques you can use when lighting a still life, product, or person. Lighting is an essential element in a photograph. It can create looming noir-inspired shadows, brighten a face, blur any imperfections, and reveal the nuances and gradients of color in the objects you have included in the photograph.
Different Types of Lighting
Some common types of lighting techniques used for products or portraitures include:
- Ambient lighting
- Hard lighting
- Soft lighting
- Flat lighting
- Natural lighting
If you’re shooting in a studio or a salon and the ambient lighting (original lighting without lighting equipment) works, that would be ideal. Getting the lighting right while photographing is vital and should happen before the editing stage. Ambient light includes lamps, ceiling fixtures, floor lamps, and chandeliers.
Hard and soft lighting
Hard light is best suited for product features that show off angles. Softer light is more flattering if a subject is a person. You want to aim for flattering light when you are photographing a client. Hard light is achieved without diffusers, while soft lighting in photography can be achieved with diffusers and broader lights.
If you plan on doing a product launch campaign yourself, there are some essentials you’ll need for the setup. Depending on what you envision for the result, there are optional techniques. Use soft light if you have a model and are photographing in a studio. Achieve soft light by diffusing your lighting source. Using diffusion paper can help soften the light. An inexpensive way to diffuse the light source is by draping a silk material over the light. Improvise with different fabrics.
Flat light is a bright light source that creates minimal to no shadows, usually directed in front of the face. Use a more prominent light source to hit all sides of the face.
Using natural lighting will help enhance the image. If the natural lighting is not overhead and juts into the space from the side, it could cast stark shadows, so this is where artificial lighting can commingle with natural lighting.
Taking Staged Photos for Your Portfolio
Light can fill up a room and make an object that once looked mundane and bland shine at all angles in the right light. First, you should decide where to photograph and what you are photographing. If you want to showcase a mannequin with a voluminous hairstyle, ensure that everything in the room that might look untidy or distract from the subject is just out of frame.
Is there a lot of natural lighting in the space you plan on shooting or is the room dark with minimal natural lighting? What kind of aesthetic are you striving to achieve? Happy, colorful, neutral tones? These are things to consider before setting up the shot.
Nowadays, complicated technology is easily accessible at our fingertips through applications and software. If you want to photograph your subject in a far-off location, you can use a green screen behind the subject and implement the backdrop in your post-production process.
Maitane Marrero holds an eye shadow case in the photo below, with the natural sunlight illuminating the palette. She has a couple of tricks up her sleeve when it comes to lighting because if you look at the reflection in the mirror, what should be more scenery of the Canary Islands, as the geotag would suggest, is actually a white block. One could speculate that this is a green screen, but if you look at the lighting on her hand, it reveals the natural way the sunlight would hit the model’s hands. Therefore, we will assume that the white block in the mirror reflection is a whiteboard used for bouncing the natural light off of the subject.
Celebrity photographer, John Russo, takes stunning editorial and portrait photos. In the example below, he uses soft lighting on actress Jessica Chastain. There are no hot spots on her face, and you can tell that this is professionally executed.
In contrast to the Jessica Chastain post, John Russo uses hard lighting in the Liam Neeson image with the blinds casting artistic shadows on the subject.
At Ogle School, we teach our students the techniques starting from the fundamentals to advanced. We show our students effective ways to create a cohesive portfolio to help them land the job they’ve been looking for. Check out all of our locations near you.