How to Use Lighting in Photography for Beginner’s

lighting in photography

You have always been curious and interested in the world of photography. You went and forked out some serious cash, but your aim is not to become a professional photographer. After all, you’ve got a day job already. You call yourself a photographer who is a hobbyist and support friends and family out with photoshoots and perhaps make some cash on the side.

So the salesperson saw your interest in the topic and also persuaded you to purchase some lighting. You have the equipment, but what now?

Now that you’ve got the camera equipment and lighting, you could also learn how to use it. But on a photography course? You don’t want to spend any more money. It’s just a hobby, and you’ve been wasting money too much already. So what you’ve wanted to know is how to use lighting in photography.

We have a not-so-professional but excellent guide on how to use your lighting equipment in photography, don’t be afraid. This is just a simple beginner’s photography guide to lighting.

NOTE: This is not a full complete guide, but for a beginner who wants to learn just enough 🙂

Why Do We Need Lighting in Photography?

taking a photo

For photography, light also plays a crucial role. Light not only defines the image’s dimness or brightness, but also the ambient color, mood and atmosphere. Therefore, to get better texture, color balance, and luminosity of the subject being captured, it is important to manipulate the light correctly. It can also be used to control the shadows on or around the subject. The reason you add light is to differentiate the subject from the context and establish dimension and depth.

Types of Photography Lighting

There are three basic types of lighting in photography.

1. The Main or Key Light

lighting photography

The key light is the primary light source for the subject. The key light can be used on its own as a single source of lighting or can be used together with other light sources. Moving the key light around the subject will create different effects of light and shadow. There are a few different lighting setups for using only the key light.

The key light is the subject’s primary source of light. The light can be used as a single source of light on its own or in combination with other sources of light. Moving the key light around the subject will produce various light and shadow effects. When using only the key light, there are a few different lighting setups.

One Light

One Light

Your flash is a key light and the background is exposed. It will make the focus a little darker, but that will be offset by the key light. It is best to position the key light on the subject side at an angle of about 45 degrees away from the camera. To get different effects, you should play with the degrees of placement. The light level should be just above the ear, but it’s open to experimentation as well.

Butterfly Lighting

butterfly lighting

The key light is mounted in front of the subject about five feet high, well above the head angled downwards. The name of this kind of lighting is derived from the fact that under the subject’s nose is created a tiny butterfly-like shadow.

2. Fill lighting

With the main light, fill lighting is used to create different settings for different effects. Here’s a set-up to use the key light and fill light.

Rembrandt Lighting

Rembrandt Lighting

The subject’s nose is a tiny triangle of light in the Rembrandt set up opposite where the key light is placed and flattering for all subjects. The key light is 45 degrees to the subject’s side about six or seven feet up and the fill light is 90 degrees in the opposite side of the key light and at eye level just about. With this setup, to get the desired look, you can play around with the key light.

3. Back Lighting

rim lighting

With the configuration of the back or rim light, the key light is directed to the face of the subject and positioned behind the subject to illuminate the profile, the fill light is placed on the same side as the key light, and the rim light is placed on the opposite side of the key and fill lights. It is possible to use a small reflector to play around highlighting specific features.

For portrait photography, front lighting is perfect where you want the face of the individual to be completely illuminated. Remember that a bright front light causes your subject to squint, so transfer the light into an area where it provides partial shadow where the light can still hit your subject.

The backlight should be dark enough not to overshadow the foreground and sufficiently effective to distinguish the target from the background. You establish a gap from the background and a certain depth with the rim light or backlight.

The soft light will give a soft glow, offering a dramatic or moody look to the harsh light.

A reflector is used to bounce back on your subject with natural light and create a highlight or shadow where you need it. Play and play with it to create the desired effect.


What you need to learn is to start using lighting to make fun photoshoots happen. Go out and have fun with your camera and some nice ideas for lighting.