Basic Lighting Knowledge Makes Photographs Shine

When trying to create perfect photography, it’s all about the lighting. Good lighting can make any subject look great.

Studio lighting is perhaps the best way to accomplish good photography. In the studio, the photographer has complete control of the lighting dynamic. A photographer must first decide whether the lighting in the studio should come from the ceiling or be based on the floor using stands. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Ceiling-based lighting is out-of-the-way. It won’t interfere with movement in the studio. But a ceiling-based system is usually far more expensive. Expect to pay thousands of dollars for the rover and rail system used to manipulate the lights.

Floor-based lighting systems are considerably less expensive. They are mounted on portable lightweight stands. They are easily moved, but contribute to clutter in the studio and can be easily knocked over.

There are three types of studio lighting. One is called hot lights. Hot lights are on continuously. This type of illumination is usually reserved for television and film production. However, they can be useful in still photography also. Their advantage is a photographer can set a shot and know precisely what the lighting will look like. One big disadvantage is that they use a lot of energy and put out tremendous heat.

Some still photographers use warm lights. Warm lights are color balanced fluorescent light bulbs. Like hot lights, they provide constant illumination. But unlike hot lights, they don’t produce substantial heat and are more energy-efficient. The main disadvantage is they can cast an uneven illumination.

The most common form of lighting for photographers are cold lights. Simply put, these are electronic flashes or strobes. But these flashes are more powerful than those built into cameras. There are two types of studio flash systems: Monolights and Power Pack systems. They both do basically the same thing. The monolight is a single illumine that plugs directly into the wall. A power pack system connects one or more strobe lights to a timing mechanism and a charging system. Both systems link electronically to the camera and flash as a photo is taken.

Understanding the types of strobe lights or flashes is also important. For general-purpose photography, 500 watt-seconds should work. Photographers can employ a smaller strobe to photograph smaller subjects such as those on a tabletop. However, most professional studio photographers have at least 2000 watt-seconds. Experts suggest photographers purchase strobe systems popular enough to get accessories, replacement bulbs and tips and service.

Regardless of hot, warm or cold lighting, the illumination might need to be diffused. Hard lighting can be achieved by using bare bulbs placed at an appropriate distance. To achieve diffused or softer illumination, light must be bounced or reflected off umbrellas or other reflective material. Hot and warm lighting can be diffused with filters placed directly in front of them. Gold and silver reflective panels can be used to balance light and change the color temperature.

By creating a good studio plan, and having a basic knowledge of color temperature and types of lighting, even the most novice photographer can achieve professional results.