Lighting in Photography

Light is the key ingredient in photography. Without light, it is impossible to create a photograph. The more you learn to "see the light' and comprehend how it affects your photography, the better photographer will become. By knowing how to utilize powerful lighting, you will be able to improve the way you communicate with your images.

The art of creating dramatic lighting can be a matter of mood. How you control the lighting and camera's settings will create the atmosphere that best matches the subject. Your creativity is essential when you use powerful lighting. The way you use your lighting should be consistent with the purpose you intend to achieve in mind for your photo.

Each subject will appear different due to lighting. The use of dramatic lighting or the use of a light-altering device for softening the light could produce photos that are very different.

What Is Dramatic Lighting In Photography?

Dramatic lighting is concerned with the contrast of shadows and light. When you take photos using bright light you will usually see significant shadows.

Contrast such as this is most intense when there is only one light source that creates hard light. Light with a narrow beam can create greater contrast, which can create the most striking impact. Any light that isn't coming from the same direction or source can decrease the contrast. The presence of multiple light sources implies shadows won't be as strong.

However, this doesn't mean light that is soft or multi-directional cannot be dramatic. Sometimes, soft light can be intense. This is dependent on the topic and how you control the settings for exposure. We will discuss this in the near future. If soft light is coming from one direction and causing deep shadows, it is also dramatic lighting. If the source of light is huge it is not as intense because it does not create deep shadows.

What Kind Of Light Is Dramatic?

Any kind of lighting can be stunning. If you're working with soft lighting, you can create an outstanding photo by choosing the correct subject and settings. A rim light can produce stunning portraits. It is the hardest and most popular type of dramatic lighting since it produces strong shadows.

If you are using an artificial lighting source, it is possible to make stunning light by using an illuminating modifier such as barn doors. It is possible to use a powerful primary light that is directional, with a pattern on the back of your subject. Also, you can make a hard light employing a lighting modifier in order to reduce the intensity of your main light. In general, the smaller the amount of light you have in your lighting, the less striking the light will appear. If you're looking to stay clear of the dramatic lighting, it is possible to include other light sources to achieve balance and create an evenly lit composition.

The direction of light influences the intensity of light or not. We've all seen striking portrait lighting used to create the fear of a look or even a menace. It is usually done by placing a powerful primary light beneath a subject's face while pointing upwards. Light hits the face from beneath it and casts shadows in areas we don't expect to see them.

Sunny Day Dramatic Light

A sunny day's light can be stunning. Indoors or outdoors. Blinds of window can be helpful for dramatic indoor photos. In bright light, they can create interesting patterns on the background of the subject of a portrait. They can also be employed to darken the background.

In open light it's harder to make dramatic portrait lighting. If you can locate an unlit background with enough contrast between the background with your subject it's possible to create dramatic images.

Outdoor Dramatic Lighting

In the outdoors on a cloudy day it is necessary to employ certain lighting equipment when you're looking to make striking illumination. This is due to the fact that clouds scatter sunlight enough that it fills all the shadows that are strong, as well as the light contrast gets minimal.

Portrait photography with window light on a day that is cloudy can create stunning lighting. This is due to the fact that sunlight that enters through windows is more concentrated and direct which means it has more intensity. The effects of light can also be controlled by setting the exposure. Manual mode lets you get the most out of the dramatic lighting.

We Can’t See Dramatic Lighting The Way As Our Camera

With the high contrast lighting and sharp shadows, we might not be able to see our subject in the way our cameras snap a photo. Our eyes are able to perceive a greater dynamic spectrum of light than digital cameras currently record. The technology advances and camera sensors become more efficient.

The camera's sensor has a predetermined ISO and therefore it captures an image that is based on how responsive it is in response to light. Our eyes don't have this limitation. We can, however, see something differently, especially in extreme lighting conditions.

The way you take a light meter reading, and how you set your exposure will also have an impact. The way you set your exposure affects how photos that are taken in bright light appear like what we would expect to see of things or not.

If you're using film the dynamic range of film cameras is smaller than that of the modern digital camera. This means that less detail will be captured in the highlights as well as deep shadows.

Because of this, some photographers choose not to capture photos with hard light, particularly those who prefer making use of any of the semi-automatic options. Photographers may have heard the claim that lighting in midday isn't as great. It is a popular belief that is often attributed to the lighting being harsh and causing intense shadows. To maximize the camera we have in stark light it's important to understand the way a photograph will appear in comparison to what we perceive of the world around us.

How To Create The Most Effective Dramatic Lighting Portraits?

If you can match the dramatic lighting to the subject you are shooting and your intention to take a picture it will be the most successful. If you're aware of the need to create drama in your photo, the most effective way to do it is to manage the lighting. Dramatic images usually include striking lighting.

Being in control of lighting allows you to make a contrasty and dramatic photograph. If you have control over all of the lights and add drama. The ability to increase or lower the brightness is another important aspect.

Dramatic portraits typically contain one main light source, which is precisely managed. There is usually no fill light that can diminish the dramatic shadows. Direction of primary light is equally important. When the main light source is on the left, it is more likely to produce an impressive effect. A main light that is right in the front of your subject, and too soft and large won't result in such striking portrait photography. It is best to make solid light to create dramatic photos that are most striking.

Which Camera Settings Work Best For Dramatic Light?

To get dramatic lighting I would recommend using the spot meter for taking a reading from the most bright part in the scene. After that, I control the exposure settings by hand.

  • I'll be setting my ISO pre-determined based on general lighting conditions, and I will try to keep the ISO as minimal as possible. It is generally the case that I try to select shutter speeds that are not too fast to cause shaking of the camera. In the event that my subject moves, I consider this.
  • Then, I'll set the shutter speed and then I make sure it is in balance with my aperture settings. The color of the area I'm taking a spot meter reading from affects my choices when setting for the exposure triangle. I will also examine my histogram and highlight indicators to be aware of areas that are overexposed and have no details.
  • If I'm trying to read a text of light or light-toned part of the image, then I'll typically increase the aperture or decrease the shutter speed. This means that the light-toned area appears more real and any dark-shaded areas will appear dark.
  • This means that my exposure is adjusted to make my lighting appear as striking and vivid as possible.
  • Occasionally, based on the subject I'm photographing, I'll also do spot readings from the darkest parts of a photograph. I'll then be able to calculate the contrast between the darkest and brightest areas. This will also help me when I change the settings for exposure.
  • I always prefer to work in manual mode, and not use any of the semi-automatic options. This allows me to have more precise control over my exposure. By using this Zone System, I can determine how the tones and contrast of my photos appear.

How Can You Create Dramatic Lighting At Your Home?

  • You can take advantage of your photography with dramatic lighting wherever you go. If you are in control of lighting, it will be helpful.
  • When working with ambient lighting you can still make dramatic effects. Being able to see the light and recognize the levels of contrast allows you to create stunning effects. When you are able to practice studying contrast, you'll see your ability to improve as time passes. In time, you'll be able to tell that your lighting is ideal to take a picture with striking lighting.
  • Controlling light sources can give more flexibility. It's as easy as closing all windows and doors in the room, with only one exception. Then, light is coming from one source in only one direction. It is important to keep all lights turned off and try to create an unlit background. This will increase the dramatic impact.
  • If you use an LED or continuous light source, you'll have more control. It's crucial to manage the power of your flash and distance from the subject. If you don't do this, you could not achieve the desired effect you want in your photograph.
  • Controlling the direction and the output from your lighting allows you to set it up so that you can maximize shadows. When you have continuous lights, such as LEDs, it's much easier since you know the areas where shadows appear. If you are using Off-camera Flash you must take a test photograph every time you change the location of the flash.
  • Utilizing a diffuser for your light source or your flash to guide the direction of lighting makes it more efficient. You can adjust the elements of your photo where you would like the light to shine and block light from the background.
  • Post-processing also has an effect on how striking the lighting of your photos appears. The user can modify the curve of tone as well as use other tools in editing software to dramatically alter the appearance of a properly exposed image.



The main factor to take into consideration when you use dramatic lighting is to ensure that it is in line with your subject and the intention. The way you illuminate your subject can say a lot about a photograph. If you use soft or strong light the same subject could appear very different. It is possible to photograph an area or a newly born baby. Both tend to be photographed in gentle light, which can be more subtle. However, you might want to make your photo more dramatic. Utilizing the hard light can allow you to make very unique images.

Being aware of how to control the settings for your exposure is essential when you wish to capture photos that have striking lighting. If the lighting is harsh it is unlikely that you'll create an image that is dramatic. By exposing the highlights, the shadows will be darker and the overall impression of the photograph will be much more dramatic. Averaging a reading of the light meter, and then using either of the semi-auto settings in your camera typically produces flat-looking images. This is due to the fact that the camera's settings are programmed to smooth out the brightness of the scene.