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Photographic Lighting Basics

  • Traditional Three-Point Lighting
  • "Hard" vs. "Soft" light
  • Flash

Start in the Dark

key + fill + rim
key + fill + rim
You want to control all of the light and see the effects of each light as you add it.

A few words about posing and backdrops...
  • Make some distance between the subject and the backdrop
  • Make some distance between camera and subject and use telephoto end of zoom
  • Avoid "Mug Shot" posing

Key Light


Fill Light

key + fill
key + fill
key + fill

Rim Light

key + fill + rim
key + fill + rim
key + fill + rim


  • Prop Lamps in the scene
  • Give the illusion of being the only source of light
  • Important that lamps in the scene apear to be giving off light or the image looks "wrong"
  • Replace bulbs with low wattage equivalents if they are interfering with your lighting

Point Source of Light

aka "hard" light

Point Source of Light

Strong or "Harsh" Shadows

studio lights

Soft Light

aka diffuse light

Diffused or Soft Light Source

Soft Shadows


Flash is a Point Source of Light

Flash Problems

  • Harsh Shadows
  • "Red Eye"
  • Flattens Subject
  • Limited Range

Fixing Flash

  • Bouncing
  • Diffusing
  • Use reflectors to fill
  • Multiple Flashes

Available Light

  • The Sun
    • Point Source of light, therefore hard; harsh shadows
    • Shoot on overcast days
    • Put subject in the shade
    • Use reflectors to fill
  • Indoor Illumination
    • Weaker
    • Color Temperature
    • Sometimes more controlable

Color Temperature

Color Temperature

White Balance

White Balance Options