4 Basic Lighting Principles of Photography
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4 Lighting Principles I wish I knew when I started Photography

When I first started photography, I struggled a lot with lighting. In the beginning, we are often told to shoot our subjects in open shade. If you don't know how to do this properly, the results can be disastrous: faces with dark shadows, eyes with no depth, overexposed backgrounds, etc. 

To create composites using your photos, you must first know how to take a properly-lit image. If the lighting in your foundation photo is off, your composite will not look right, even with heavy editing. The following are four basic lighting principles I wish I knew at the beginning of my photography career and that I've personally had a lot of success with:

Lighting Principle #1: The subject is the brightest object in the photo. Unless you are shooting a silhouette, the subject of your image should always be either the brightest object or equal in brightness to the other elements in the photo.  

Lighting Principle #2: The photo should be free of overexposed highlights. This means no blown-out highlights on your subject or highlights that appear to be unintentional. This can be mitigated by shooting in open shade, using diffusers, and ensuring your subject is between you and the sun. The example below is the difference between on-camera flash and no control, compared to soft light and precision highlights.

Lighting Principle #3: The photo should not have any erratic shadows. The lighting in your images should always look intentional and be free of irregular shadows. Unsightly shadows are usually a result of harsh sunlight hitting one's subject directly. 

Lighting Principle #4: Eyes in photographs should have a catchlight. This is one of the most overlooked principles but probably the most important because it helps achieve the first three principles. If you can see your subject's eyes in the photo, the eyes should have highlights to create depth and connect the viewer to the subject. 

What's important is that I started with these basic lighting principles, and I applied them to my composites. This shows you what you can create when you start with a strong foundation. I'd also like to point out that these lighting principles should be used as guidelines and are not hard and fast rules. Photography is an art, and as such, the principles that govern it are fluid and flexible. The four lighting principles can be broken and often are broken, but they generally produce the highest quality photos when combined.  

I've taken these fundamental techniques and others and included them in my membership program. Learn more about it here. 


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