What Are the Different Types of Photography Lighting?


Gear Focus

Jun 29, 2020

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As photographers, we capture unique images by employing several tools within the fundamentals of photography, like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you can begin adding creative elements that will take your pictures to new levels. While there are several creative elements to choose from, photographers should understand what lighting options are available and how to use them. So if you’re wondering what the different types of photography lighting are, we’ve got you covered.

Flat light

One of the photography lighting types you’re most familiar with is flat light––this is where the light is directly facing your subject. Flat lighting can be popular in portrait photography because your subject’s face is well lit, but there’s a catch. Having a well-lit face is vital to a great portrait, but some individuals are self-conscious about blemishes or wrinkles, so you’ll need to incorporate shadows on their faces.

Ambient light

There are several variations of ambient light, including natural sources like the sun as well as artificial sources like street lights. As you might suspect, ambient light is most common in landscape, nature, or architecture photography. So the next time you’re trying to capture the clouds from a storm rolling in, you probably won’t need anything more than your camera rig. If you absolutely need some more light, many photographers simply use their camera’s flash.

Split light

Have you seen portraits where half the subject's face is in shadow? That’s because the photographer used what’s called split lighting. Typically split lighting is done by aiming the light source at the subject at a 90-degree angle. Be careful when using this lighting technique because it can easily make the subject appear more masculine, so maybe not the best option when taking a portrait of your grandma.


As one of the easiest types of photography lighting methods, the backlight can create a silhouette of your subject. Alternatively, backlight can produce beautiful atmospheres in your photos. One common use of backlighting is emphasizing conditions like fog, but backlighting does have some challenges. If backlighting isn’t employed properly, it can create haziness or murkiness in your photos. You can counteract haziness by using a reflector or implementing a semi-silhouette technique. A reflector will shine the light back toward your subject to enhance clarity. On the other hand, the semi-silhouette technique requires you to allow just enough light into the frame. The good news about creating unique lighting scenarios is that you don’t need to completely break the bank on gear. You can use any light source from the Canon 580EX II flash, to the Lowel TotaLED Daylight, to the Rotolight AEOS Ultra-Portable Bi-Color LED light panel. All are great options. However, in order to use the different types of photography lighting successfully, you need to practice the placement of your light source more than anything. Sometimes photographers outgrow gear and need to upgrade. What better way to finance an upgrade than selling your old gear? Instead of dealing with the hassle of general marketplaces, consider a reputable online source where you can buy and sell used camera gear like Gear Focus. We offer the lowest seller fees, and you’ll have a targeted market with people that know what they want. If you’re interested in selling off your old gear, or you merely want to upgrade your lighting gear, check out our online shop today!

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