For Beginners Only - 4

15 November 2014

SIG: Travel

If there is one element that can make or break a photograph it is lighting and yet, it is often the least considered element, even if it is thought of at all.​


Take the same viewpoint of the same subject with different photography lighting and you will often see images which look very different.


We will look at different ideas on lighting later but as a general rule, try to keep the light source behind you and to one side so that it illuminates the subject with a slight shadow. Also, if the subject happens to be a person, this will help ensure they do not squint.


Most photographs look best in natural light, even when the light is dim. Light and shade communicate mood and help to emphasise parts of an image.

A lot of cameras have a built-in flash. Make sure that this is turned off unless you really need or want it for a particular image. Too many great pictures are spoiled because the auto-flash fired unnecessarily or because it was positioned incorrectly - click here to review guidelines on holding your camera correctly.

There are numerous ways to apply photography lighting to an infinite number of subjects so let’s start with the simple scenario of a young girl by her Christmas tree. We have the choice of daylight from the window and/or flashlight.


Shot in Black and White, this photo shows how natural light can be used to great effect.


The photograph was taken to send to the young girl’s family - some of whom live abroad and haven’t seen her for a while.

The auto-flash fired and has illuminated the whole scene, including the rather distracting decorations on the Christmas tree.

The result is fine but presents a rather bland image.




Shot with the flash turned off and making sure that the camera was held steady to compensate for the slow shutter speed, this image has more atmosphere.


It shows off the girl’s hair and facial features much better and does not have so many distractions from the tree decorations.

Why include the tree at all?





In this third photo there is a situation where less is more in the composition of the photograph.

By moving or zooming in we focus attention on the subject with no unnecessary distractions.

As to photography lighting - no more than daylight through a fine curtain at the window. A treat in store for the whole family!




This article is an extract from the original which covers different subject types and alternative lighting ideas.


Previous Articles in the series - 


1 - "Photography Technique - Holding the Camera"


2 - "Photography Technique - The Essentials"


3 - "Photography Technique - Composition"