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A Complete Guide to Photography Lighting (Best Techniques)

Last updated: May 23, 2024 - 32 min read
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Photography means “painting with light.” This definition emphasizes how important photography lighting is to perfecting your craft. We measure the amount of light, color, temperature, and how “soft” or “hard” it is.

Understanding how to make the most of light or manipulate and use extra light is key to improving your photography. So, we’ve put together this guide to making lighting work for you in every circumstance.

Recommended SLR Lougue Photography Lighting Courses
SLR Lounge’s Lighting 101
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SLR Lounge’s Lighting 201
SLR Lounge’s Lighting 201
SLR Lounge’s Lighting 201

Mastering Photography Lighting

We’ve put together this complete guide for photography lighting. It’s a one-stop shop for all you need to know. It explores different lighting techniques as well as the specialist lighting equipment photographers user for the best results.

Click on the links below to navigate through the article:


Photography Lighting Basics

Start with these basic lighting concepts. You can then move on to specific lighting techniques and niches.

Different Lighting Effects

Understanding light is important for taking great photos. The position of the light source affects shadows and texture. Side lighting shows more texture and depth, while front lighting flattens the scene.

Backlighting places the light behind the subject, creating silhouettes. Photographers also use reflected light to add depth and dimension to images. Light bends through objects like water or glass, creating interesting effects.

Bouncing light off surfaces can help spread and soften it. The color of light, measured on the Kelvin scale, affects the subject’s look. You can adjust lighting intensity by moving the light source or using diffusers. Blocking light creates shadow patterns for a dramatic look.

To learn more about photography lighting, check out our in-depth article that covers these concepts in greater detail.

light for photography

Natural Lighting

Natural light is the best light for photography. It’s free and available at any time of day. But to get the best results, you must know how to work with different types of natural light.

Direct light is great for creating dramatic shadows and emphasizing textures. Side light is perfect for moody photoshoots, while top light can give your photos a mysterious look. You can even use fabric with direct light to create interesting patterns.

Soft light is a photographer’s best friend. It’s even and creates a balanced amount of shadows. Cloudy days are ideal for capturing soft light. We have some great ideas if you want to learn more about natural light photography.

natural light examples

Key-Light Photography

The key light is the main light source in a photo shoot. It determines the overall look and feel of your photos. The sun is the most common key light, but you can also use a flash, reflector, or studio strobe.

Where you place the key light affects where shadows fall on your subject. A key light above the subject casts shadows around their eyes, nose, and chin while placing it to the side creates a more sculpted look.

Perhaps you normally only use the sun as your main light. If that’s the case, try making it your key light by reflecting some light onto your subject or adding a flash. Read our complete article on key-light photography for more details.

key light photography

High-Key Photography

High-key photography is a technique for creating bright, evenly lit images with minimal shadows. Photographers use multiple light sources to fill in shadows and create a soft, diffused look.

The key is to balance the main light with secondary lights or reflectors to eliminate dark areas.

Start with your key light and observe where shadows fall when setting up high-key lighting. Then, place fill lights at a 45-degree angle to the key light, adjusting their strength slightly lower.

High-key photography conveys an upbeat, positive mood, making it popular for advertising and comedy.

By learning more about high-key photography, you can create images with a bright, airy feel that will grab attention.

high key photography

Low-Key Photography

Low-key photography is a technique that balances light and darkness to create moody images. It involves using a single light source, either natural or artificial. It illuminates the subject while keeping the background dark.

To achieve this effect, place your subject in a beam of light coming through a window or position a flash at a 45-degree angle.

Adjust your camera settings to cut out ambient light using a fast shutter speed and narrow aperture. Ensure your subject is at least six feet from the background to keep it dark. You can also use a light meter to help you find the right settings quickly.

You can use low-key lighting in various situations beyond portraits. Photography niches include low-key photography for food, still life, and even gig photography. 

low key photography

High Key vs Low Key

High-key and low-key lighting are two different styles. They create contrasting moods in photography.

High-key lighting is bright and minimizes shadows, resulting in a positive and dreamy feel. It’s commonly used in commercial and lifestyle photography to make subjects appear their best.

Conversely, low-key lighting is darker with more shadows. It creates a dramatic and emotional atmosphere. This style is popular in fine art, portrait, and conceptual photography. It also effectively emphasizes details in subjects like watches and electronic devices.

If you’d like to learn more about high-key vs low-key lighting, we have an in-depth article that covers the topic in greater detail.

high key vs low key

Soft vs Hard Light

Shadows are key when choosing between soft light and hard light photography. Hard light abruptly transitions between light and shadows. It creates high contrast with bright highlights and dark shadows.

Photographers often use this edgy and dramatic light for portraits of men and athletes. They also use this lighting in street and landscape photography. But hard light highlights skin imperfections and can create unflattering hot spots.

But soft light has a gradual transition from light to dark. It’s more forgiving and universally flattering, making it a popular portrait choice.

The size of the light source, the distance between the light and the subject, and the intensity of the light determine whether it’s hard or soft. By adjusting these factors, photographers can create the best light for their shots.

Explore our in-depth guide to learn more about the techniques and applications of hard light photography.

hard light photography

Incident Light vs Reflected Light

Incident light falls on a subject while reflected light bounces off it. Your camera’s built-in light meter measures reflected light. High contrast or incidental light entering the lens can sometimes lead to exposure issues.

An incident light meter is a handheld device. It measures the light falling on the subject, regardless of how much light the surface absorbs or reflects. These meters can help you get a more accurate exposure reading.

Incident light meters are especially useful when working with multiple studio lights. They help you balance the light sources for the desired effect.

Understanding the characteristics of light is key to becoming a better photographer. With practice, you can learn to estimate the correct camera settings without relying on a light meter.

If you’d like to learn more about incident light, our full article helps you master this important aspect of photography lighting.

incident light


Backlight involves positioning your main light source behind the subject, facing the camera. This technique can create a dramatic effect.

It adds contrast and separates the subject from the background. But it can be challenging to achieve the correct exposure when using backlighting.

Shoot in RAW format and use manual mode to capture a well-exposed backlit photograph. Spot metering is essential for accurate exposure, as it lets you set the exposure based on a small frame area.

Compose your image consciously, considering the position of the light source. And use accessories like reflectors to balance the exposure.

Experiment with creative backlight photography techniques. Create silhouettes, use translucent subjects, or incorporate lens flare.

Post-processing backlit photos can help enhance contrast. It can also bring out details in the shadows and highlights. To learn more about backlight photography, check out our in-depth guide.

backlight photography

Chiaroscuro Lighting

Chiaroscuro is a dramatic lighting technique. It combines a strong light source with deep shadows to create bold contrasts and emotion in portraits.

Renaissance painters like Rembrandt and Caravaggio popularized this lighting effect. Portrait, food, still-life, and fine-art photographers love this lighting setup.

You can use natural window light or a single artificial light source. Position it horizontally to your subject to achieve chiaroscuro lighting. Work with different gradients. Avoid lighting your model directly to create the signature fading highlights and shadows.

Black or dark backgrounds work best for chiaroscuro portraits. You can easily make your own using black paint and cardboard.

Experiment with unusual angles and focus on different parts of your model’s face. Capture a range of expressions to create striking, cinematic photos.

If you’d like to learn more about chiaroscuro lighting, our in-depth guide covers everything you need to know.

chiaroscuro lighting

Flat Light

Flat light is light that produces minimal contrast in a photograph. It occurs in bright light with no shadows or in shadows with no direct bright light.

Flat light flattens an image, making it look two-dimensional due to the lack of shadows that differentiate objects. Overcast or snowy skies outdoors are common causes of natural flat light.

Photographing in a room with indirect, diffused light from windows can also produce flat light. Using a direct flash or direct lighting will cause flat light, too, as the light comes from the same perspective as the camera.

Flat light is often used in fashion and beauty photography to reduce the visibility of imperfections. It’s also good for group pictures, passport photos, or professional headshots to ensure even lighting on each person.

Flat light is useful for photographers to understand and use in the right situations.

flat light

Tungsten Lighting

Tungsten light is a warm, artificial light that is common in homes and on stage. Its distinct orange or yellow color can make photos look uneven if not used correctly. But with the right techniques, you can use tungsten light to improve your photography.

Try using tungsten as a backlight to create a dreamy, surreal look. You can also combine it with evening light for a dramatic effect. You can also adjust your white balance to avoid oversaturation. And use multiple tungsten lights to create flattering portraits.

Tungsten light is useful for adding warmth and depth to photos. You can find creative ways to use it in your photography with some experimentation. To learn more about tungsten light photography, check out our in-depth guide.

tungsten light photography

Neon Lighting

Neon light photography is a fun and exciting way to capture colorful lights against dark backgrounds. Use a large aperture to let in as much light as possible and a high ISO to create sharp photos.

Including models in your shots can add an interesting element, especially if they wear glasses that reflect the neon lights.

To get the best results, avoid busy places and find quieter locations where you can take your time and experiment. Manually adjust your camera’s white balance to create flattering colors, and shoot in RAW format to preserve image data.

Long exposure techniques can create surreal motion blur effects while shooting at night, making the neon signs stand out. Try photographing from different angles to create exciting compositions.

Our full article is an excellent resource if you’d like to learn more about neon light photography.

neon light photography

Types of Lighting Equipment

Three basic types of photography lighting equipment are continuous lights, strobes, and modifiers.

Continuous lights are always on and produce a soft light. Strobes are flashes that can be manual or TTL. Modifiers change the direction, intensity, or quality of light.

Each type has benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to understand how each one works before buying.

Our guide teaches you everything you need to know about photography lighting equipment. So you can make an informed decision and start taking amazing photos!

If you’d like to learn more about types of photography lighting equipment, we have a detailed article that covers the topic in-depth.


Strobes or Speedlights?

Speedlights and strobes both create short bursts of light for photography. Speedlights are small flashes that attach to your camera’s hot shoe. They’re portable and versatile.

Strobes are larger, more powerful lights designed for studio use. They have faster recycling times and built-in modeling lights.

While strobes offer more power and features, speedlights are great for most photography needs. They’re easy to pack and can create soft or hard light. Check out our in-depth article to learn more about speedlight and strobe lighting differences.

speedlight vs strobe


Choosing the right flashgun can be tricky. One has many advantages, and some types of photography are almost impossible without a flash. The best flashgun for you will depend on your needs, budget, and camera brand.

Our top pick is the Godox V860III-S. It packs TTL, HSS, and a rechargeable battery into a great-value package. This powerful flash offers a fast recycling time and high-power output for stunning results.

If you’d like to learn more about the best flashguns, we have a detailed guide that covers everything you need to know. Our guide has you covered everything from the different types of flashguns to how to use them effectively.

Our Top 3 Photography Lighting Flashguns
Godox V860III-S
Godox V860III-S
Godox V860III-S
Nissin Di700A Flash
Nissin Di700A Flash
Nissin Di700A Flash
Nikon SB-5000 AF Speedlight
Nikon SB-5000 AF Speedlight
Nikon SB-5000 AF Speedlight


A ringflash is a must-have tool for macro photographers. It clips onto the end of your lens, providing even lighting and removing harsh shadows. These features let you capture stunning close-up shots of insects, flowers, and other small subjects.

Ringflashes also give you more freedom with your camera settings. The extra light lets you use narrower apertures for a deeper depth of field. You can also use faster shutter speeds to avoid motion blur when shooting moving subjects.

The Godox MF-R76 Macro LED Ring Flash Speedlite is our top pick. It has a hot shoe connector for easy setup and eight adapter rings to fit most lenses. The dual flash tubes and ten brightness levels give you full control over your lighting.

Ringflashes are an essential accessory for any serious macro photographer. Read our complete article to learn more about them.

Our Top 3 Photography Lighting Ringflashes
Godox MF-R76 Macro LED Ring Flash Speedlite
Godox MF-R76 Macro LED Ring Flash Speedlite
Godox MF-R76 Macro LED Ring Flash Speedlite
Yongnuo YN14EX II Macro Flash for Canon DSLR
Yongnuo YN14EX II Macro Flash for Canon DSLR
Yongnuo YN14EX II Macro Flash for Canon DSLR
Godox ML-150 II Macro Ring Flash
Godox ML-150 II Macro Ring Flash
Godox ML-150 II Macro Ring Flash

Light Modifiers

Lighting modifiers are essential tools for photographers. They give you more control over light, letting you achieve your desired look in your photos.

There are several types of lighting modifiers, each with its unique benefits. Reflectors and diffusers help soften and spread light evenly across your subject. Softboxes and beauty dishes provide a broad, flattering light perfect for portraits.

Color gels and filters let you change the tone and mood of your lighting. Scrims and umbrellas are great for illuminating larger spaces.

You can take your photography to the next level with the right lighting modifiers. Lighting modifiers are a must-have for any serious photographer.

Our Top 3 Photography Lighting Modifiers
NEEWER 43-Inch/110-Centimeter 5-In-1 Circular Light Reflector
NEEWER 43-Inch/110-Centimeter 5-In-1 Circular Light Reflector
NEEWER 43-Inch/110-Centimeter 5-In-1 Circular Light Reflector
Altura Photo Flash Diffuser Softbox
Altura Photo Flash Diffuser Softbox
Altura Photo Flash Diffuser Softbox
Triopo KS55 Portable Octagon Softbox Umbrella
Triopo KS55 Portable Octagon Softbox Umbrella
Triopo KS55 Portable Octagon Softbox Umbrella

Video Lights

Video lights are an essential tool for photographers and videographers. They provide continuous illumination, letting you capture high-quality footage in various settings. Consider brightness, color temperature, and portability when choosing a video light.

The Neewer CN-160 is a great option for those needing a compact light that attaches directly to their camera. It features 160 LED lights with adjustable brightness and filters for different lighting effects.

The Rotolight NEO 2 is another excellent choice. It offers continuous light and high-speed sync flash capabilities. And it all comes in a lightweight, portable design.

For accurate color reproduction, the Aputure Amaran MC is a top pick. This small but mighty light offers various colors and special effects, making it perfect for creative shoots. It also features built-in magnets and a variety of control options for easy use.

Video lights are a valuable addition to any photographer or videographer’s kit. They provide the illumination needed to create stunning visuals.

Lighting Kits

The best photography lighting kits can take your photos to the next level. There are affordable options for beginners and high-end kits for professionals.

Our top pick is the Godox AD200 Pro. It’s a powerful, portable strobe with a maximum output of 200 watts and a 60 GN. The AD200 Pro offers HSS up to 1/8000 s, TTL metering, and a built-in radio receiver. It’s lightweight and easy to transport for location shoots or studio work.

The AD200 Pro is versatile and compatible with various modifiers, like softboxes, snoots, and umbrellas. It’s well-made and simple to use, perfect for events, portraits, and product photography. While not cheap, it’s a worthwhile investment for serious photographers.

We have a detailed guide on photography lighting kits. It covers the best options for both beginners and professionals.

Our Top 3 Photography Lighting Kits
GODOX AD200 Pro 200Ws 2.4G Flash Strobe
GODOX AD200 Pro 200Ws 2.4G Flash Strobe
GODOX AD200 Pro 200Ws 2.4G Flash Strobe
Profoto D2 500Ws AirTTL Monolight
Profoto D2 500Ws AirTTL Monolight
Profoto D2 500Ws AirTTL Monolight
Elinchrom ELB 1200 Hi-Sync To Go Lighting Kit
Elinchrom ELB 1200 Hi-Sync To Go Lighting Kit
Elinchrom ELB 1200 Hi-Sync To Go Lighting Kit

How to Use a Flash

Using a flash can improve your photography in many ways. It gives you more light in dark places and lets you get creative with your photos. There are many types of flashes and techniques to use them.

A flash works well as the main light source. Use a diffuser or bounce the light off a wall to get a natural look. You can light up subjects at night or make silhouettes by putting the flash behind them.

A small flash makes hard light and dark shadows. This looks good for crystals, flowers and showing texture. It can also make portraits pop on cloudy days. Try backlighting to make glass and water droplets glow.

Learning to use a flash opens up many creative options for stunning photos in any situation.


Hot Shoe Flash

A hot shoe is a square bracket on top of a camera that allows you to attach accessories. It has metal pins or disks that let the camera and accessory communicate. This is how an external flash can be triggered when you press the shutter button.

Hot shoes are specific to each camera manufacturer, so a Nikon flash won’t work on a Canon camera. You can still mount the flash, but there will be no communication between the camera and accessory.

There are many accessories that can be attached to a hot shoe, such as flash units, video lights, microphones, wireless tethering systems, and GPS receivers. These accessories can greatly expand the functionality of your camera.

Click here too learn more about the hot shoe.

hot shoe

Off Camera Flash

An off camera flash is a flashbulb that’s not attached to the camera. It can be moved and positioned independently, giving you more creative control over your lighting.

With an off camera flash, you can illuminate your subject from any direction without the harsh, head-on light of an on-camera flash.

Using an off camera flash allows you to emphasize depth in your photos. By moving the light source, you can control shadows and highlight or obscure sections of your images. Off camera flashes are great for both studio and location shoots, especially in low light settings.

Once you have your gear, experiment with different off camera flash techniques like fill light, recreating ambient light indoors, or using obvious flash separation for dramatic effects.

off camera flash

Fill Flash

Fill flash is a technique that helps improve portraits taken in bright sunlight. When the main light source is behind the subject, it can create a silhouette effect.

Using fill flash adds light to the subject’s face, evening out the exposure and removing harsh shadows.

To use fill flash effectively, consider the amount of ambient light and adjust the flash power accordingly. In bright sunlight, setting the flash to -1 or -2 stops can provide just enough light to fill in shadows without overpowering the natural light.

Experimenting with the flash position, such as moving it off-camera, can also help create a more natural-looking result.

We have a full guide on fill flash techniques, so click the link to find out more.

fill flash
 How to Use Lighting Modifiers

Lighting modifiers help photographers control and shape light from strobes and flashes.

Softboxes and umbrellas increase the size of the light source. They create softer, more flattering light with gentler shadows. Beauty dishes also soften the light. But they maintain some shadow depth for a dramatic look that sculpts facial features.

Grids, snoots, and barn doors give photographers precise control over where the light falls in the scene. Grids create a focused light beam, and snoots produce a narrower spotlight effect.

Barn doors let you customize the light spread. Flags block light from hitting certain areas. And gels change the color of the light for creative effects or to match ambient light.

Gobos and color modifiers add unique patterns to the light. Flash diffusers like domes and bounce cards provide softening options in a compact size for on-camera use. Light modifiers open up endless creative possibilities for shaping light.



A photography reflector is an affordable tool for manipulating light for professional-looking images. It bounces existing light back onto the subject, adding fill light. It also creates catchlights in portraits and prevents silhouettes.

Reflectors come in different sizes, colors, and shapes, each affecting how the light bounces. Larger reflectors create softer light. Smaller reflectors produce harder light with more noticeable shadows.

White reflectors provide very soft light, silver ones reflect more light than white, and gold reflectors give subjects a warm glow. You can also use the black side to block light and create shade or the semi-transparent white as a diffuser to soften the light.

To use a reflector effectively, check the intensity and location of the light in your scene. Position the reflector across from the light source, at an angle, or parallel to the ground to fill in shadows.

Experiment with different angles and distances to fine-tune the lighting. If you’d like to learn more about using a photography reflector, we have a comprehensive guide that covers everything from the basics to creative techniques.

photography reflector


Softboxes are a great way to improve your photography lighting. They diffuse light, creating softer shadows and more even illumination. This lighting technique is especially useful for portraits, still life, and product photography.

Position the softbox close to your subject for the softest light to get the best results. Experiment with different angles to control where shadows fall. If using multiple lights, consider how they balance with each other and any ambient light.

Pay attention to reflections, especially on shiny surfaces. Ensure your subject is far enough from the background to avoid unwanted shadows. With practice, softboxes can help you achieve perfect lighting in your photos.

To use a softbox effectively, consider its size, placement, and power output relative to your subject and other lights. For our full tutorial, read our article about softboxes.

use a softbox

Softbox vs Umbrella

Consider their unique characteristics when choosing between a softbox and an umbrella. Softboxes provide more control over light direction. They often have double diffusion for softer lighting. They can also use grids to further control the light.

Umbrellas are more portable and quick to set up. They spread light everywhere. Umbrellas are ideal for event and interior photography, where even illumination is needed.

Collapsible umbrella softboxes offer the best of both worlds. They perform like a softbox with the portability of an umbrella. They also come in various sizes and are great for beginners.

Softbox versus umbrellas is a common debate we explore in full. But the best choice depends on your specific needs and preferences.

A studio with lights
Photo by Harry Cunningham (Unsplash)

Niche Photography Lighting

Learning how to control and manipulate light is important in every type of photography. But different niches also have specific requirements and skills. It’s well worth looking into every aspect when you try your hand at something new.


Portrait Photography Lighting

One of the most challenging and rewarding photography niches is portraiture. It’s a great example of how lighting can make or break an image.

A portrait tries to capture the character of the subject as well as their physical appearance. So, using light to create a mood or impression is valuable.

Portrait photography lighting covers everything from natural light to harsh flash. The skill is in choosing the right light to capture the character of your subject. We have a collection of articles for you to discover everything you need to know to master portrait photography lighting.

fill light

Wedding Lighting

Wedding photography lighting is key to capturing stunning photos of the bride and groom. Backlighting is a favorite technique to make the bride’s veil and dress glow. Sidelighting creates interesting shadows, but watch out for unflattering nose shadows.

A window provides soft, flattering light but can cause wide-shot white balance issues. On sunny days, use a reflector as an easy way to bounce light and fill shadows. Avoid using a bare flash, as it creates harsh shadows.

Diffuse or bounce the flash for softer light. Use manual flash settings and balance it with the ambient light using shutter speed and aperture. Try wedding photography lighting with an off-camera flash at a 45-degree angle or behind the couple for more depth and dimension.

wedding photography lighting

Weddings With a Flash

Using flash at weddings can help balance exposure to bright sunlight. Bounce the flash off ceilings or walls to soften the light on your subjects. You can also use flash creatively to add drama, like placing it behind the couple for a unique effect.

Put the flash on a pole for group photos to light everyone evenly. Check with the venue about flash rules during the ceremony. Outdoors, you may need to adjust your flash to compete with sunlight.

Pick a spot for portraits at the reception and dial in your flash settings. Use a slow shutter with a flash for fun dance floor shots. Flash also captures detailed shots of rings, flowers, and decor. Flash photography for weddings is a skill worth mastering.

flash photography for wedding

Macro Lighting

Lighting is one of the main challenges in macro photography. It can be tricky to get the light right without blocking your subject. But with the right techniques and accessories, you can capture stunning macro shots every time.

When shooting outdoors, aim to take photos in the morning when the sun is about 45 degrees overhead. This technique provides ideal lighting conditions for macro subjects. If you encounter harsh shadows, use a reflector to bounce light and fill those unwanted dark areas.

If you’re shooting indoors, position your subject by a window to take advantage of the soft, diffused natural light. Desk lamps and LED lights are also great options for artificial lighting in macro photography.

Incorporate a flash unit designed specifically for macro shooting for even brighter illumination. With a little experimentation, you’ll find the perfect lighting setup to bring your tiny subjects to life.

To dive deeper into macro photography lighting, explore our comprehensive guide.

macro photography lighting

Product Lighting

Product photography lighting is key to capturing stunning images that showcase your products in the best light.

Studio lights give you full control over the lighting. You can minimize reflections and ensure realistic colors. Ring lights, softboxes, and continuous lights are popular options to illuminate products evenly.

Experiment with different lighting arrangements to find what works best for your products. Front lighting is a go-to setup, while overhead lighting can create moody shots.

For reflective products, try using two lights at angles to eliminate unwanted reflections. A three-light set up in a triangle formation emphasizes form and separates the product from the background.

No studio lights? Natural window light can also produce soft, even lighting for your product photos. By mastering product photography lighting, you can capture jaw-dropping images. You’ll showcase your products in the best possible way!

product photography lighting

Food Lighting

Lighting is important in food photography to create beautiful photos. Side lighting is a good approach for most setups. Place your light on the left and use a reflector on the opposite side to control shadows.

Backlighting can make food gleam and highlight texture, but it can be tricky. Place your light behind the food and use reflectors to bounce light onto the front and sides. Avoid low angles, or you may capture the light source in the photo.

Side backlighting combines side and backlighting for the best of both. Place your light at an angle between 10:00 and 11:00 to give surface shine without overexposure. Food photography lighting takes practice, but these one-light setups help you create great photos.

food photography lighting

Real Estate Lighting

Good lighting is essential for real estate photography. Natural light is the best source, so open the windows and curtains to let the sun in. Choose the best time of day to shoot, usually around midday, and turn off all the lights to avoid color casts.

If natural light produces strong shadows, use a bounced flash to reveal details. Adjust camera settings for the correct exposure, then adjust flash power to affect only the shadows. This technique makes the main light appear from the window for a natural look.

Sometimes, light fixtures are a feature of the property. In these cases, turn on the lights and use multiple exposures to capture all the details in the shadows and highlights.

Merge the exposures into a single HDR image, but be careful not to overdo the processing and create an unnatural look. To learn more about lighting for real estate photography, check out our in-depth guide.

Spacious open plan kitchen and living room
© Kara Eads (

Pet Lighting

Using a single light is a great way to create stunning pet portraits. Position a softbox overhead for a dramatic look, or use frontal lighting for a flattering effect. Experiment with lighting from below for an ominous feel, or place the light to the side for a classic, moody portrait.

LED lights are another option for pet photography. Position them far from your subject to avoid harsh shadows, and try placing them to one side for storytelling arrangements.

You can also use ring lights to expose every part of your pet while separating it from the background. Adding gel filters or using small, portable LED panel lights can make your one-light setup even more interesting.

Carefully consider lighting angles, diffusion, and positioning. Then, you can master the art of setting up pet photography lighting. You’ll create captivating images that beautifully illuminate your furry subjects.

Gorgeous little grey kitten in a blanket
© Jacco Rienks

Boudoir Lighting

Proper boudoir photography lighting is key to creating timeless, elegant, and sensual images. Natural light from a window can provide a soft and welcoming look, but it can be unpredictable. Shooting outdoors during golden hours or overcast days can give you even, flattering light.

You have more control in the studio. A single continuous light, such as an octagonal softbox or ring light, can fill in shadows and create a natural vignette.

Two lights, one in front and one to the side can provide separation from the background. Three lights in a triangle arrangement can be even more dramatic.

Experiment with color gels on your lights for a unique look. In post-processing, you can enhance the lighting with natural or cross-processed editing styles. Boudoir lighting is about satisfying your client’s needs and adding character to the images.

A boudoir photo of a woman on a bed

Editing Photography Lighting

If the lighting in your photos is incorrect, you can sometimes repair it with editing. You might also have a creative idea about lighting that you can apply later with software. We’ve collected some ideas for you.

Photoshop Lighting Adjustments

Adjusting lighting in Photoshop can greatly improve your images. Start by duplicating the background layer to keep the original unaltered. Then, make changes by choosing an adjustment layer like Levels, Curves, Brightness/Contrast, or Exposure.

Use the Dodge and Burn tools to lighten or darken specific areas. The Sponge tool lets you saturate or desaturate colors. Blend modes like Multiply, Screen, and Overlay can further enhance your image.

If you want to hide adjustments in certain areas, use a layer mask and paint over them with a black brush. Save your adjustments as presets for quick use in the future. To learn more about adjusting lighting, check out our in-depth guide.

adjust lighting

Photoshop Lighting Effects

You can create cool lighting effects in Photoshop to improve dull photos. One way is to layer different images together to intensify light trails. This technique works well for boat light trails, which are slower than car trails.

Another method is to use the paintbrush tool to draw a light path. Customize the brush settings, paint your path, and add glow effects. You can add more streaks for a dramatic look.

Luminosity masks and the gradient tool are also useful for selectively brightening parts of your image. Experiment with curves, solid colors, and light rays for creative results.

With these Photoshop techniques, you can easily adjust the lighting in your photos. To learn more about lighting effects in Photoshop, check out our in-depth article.

lighting effects in photoshop

Photography Lighting Courses and eBooks

Maybe our article piqued your interest to learn more about lighting and improving your skills. Great! There are many resources for you to look at, and we’ve reviewed the best ones.


Photography Lighting Courses

Lighting is a critical skill that separates professional photographers from amateurs. SLR Lounge’s “Lighting 3: Advanced Off-Camera Flash” is the best photography lighting course.

It teaches creative ways to light subjects, resulting in eye-catching photos. The course also covers taste, creative vision, and critical thinking in photography.

Presented by respected photographer and educator Pye Jirsa, it’s entertaining and informative. It’s comprehensive (eight hours long). It’s most suitable for advanced photographers who want to improve their skills.

Many great options are available if you want more photography lighting courses. These courses help you master the art of lighting and take your photography to new heights.

lighting 3

LIT eBook Review

The LIT eBook is a collection of 52 lighting setups from top wedding photographers. They structured it like a recipe book. It gives step-by-step instructions to create beautifully lit wedding photos.

Each section explains the concept behind the shot and how to execute it. You learn the camera settings, light modifications, and how to direct the subjects. The photographer also shares their post-production approach.

The eBook contains amazing example images and helpful sketches of lighting setups. Read our full review to learn more about the LIT eBook. It’s a great resource for wedding photographers or anyone looking to improve their lighting skills.

We Highly Recommend
The LIT Book by Shotkit
ShotKit's LIT Book
Looking for practical lighting tips from top wedding photographers? Check out this fantastic lit eBook, packed with 52 lighting setups, execution tips, and post-production considerations. Perfect for photographers with strong fundamentals and lighting knowledge.

Phil Steele

Phil Steele’s “Advanced Off-Camera Flash Photography” is a comprehensive video course. It teaches you how to master flash photography. It covers everything from choosing the right gear to advanced lighting techniques.

The course is full of valuable content and shows multiple photoshoots with lots of detail. Phil is very accurate in teaching lighting and modifying light. He also recommends low-cost gear options, so you don’t have to break the bank to get started.

By the end of the course, you’ll know how to replicate natural light with flash and create pro-level images. This course is a great place to start if you want to learn more about off-camera flash photography.

Check out our full Phil Steel advanced off-camera flash course review for all the details.

We Highly Recommend
Advanced Off-Camera Flash by Phil Steele
Phil Steele's Advanced Off Camera Flash
Learn the ins and outs of off-camera flash photography with a comprehensive online course. Get expert instruction and low-cost gear recommendations to take your skills to the next level.

SLR Lounge Lighting 3 Review

SLR Lounge’s Lighting 3 is an advanced course on multi-point lighting setups using off-camera flashes and strobes. It covers various techniques, from rim lighting and starbursts to motion effects and double exposures.

The course includes 32 episodes totaling 8 hours of content. SLR provides RAW files so you can follow the editing process. The instructor, Pye Jirsa, uses a logical approach to teach specific lighting “recipes” to help your photos stand out.

If you want to improve your lighting skills, Lighting 3 is an excellent choice. It’s a well-produced, comprehensive course that provides great value for the price. Read our full SLR Lounge Lighting 3 review for all the details.

We Highly Recommend
Lighting 3 by SLR Lounge
SLR Lounge's Lighting 3 Course
Looking for a premium photography lighting course? Our recommended online course covers everything from light modifiers to exposure and color correction, helping you master the art of location lighting.

SLR Lounge Lighting 4 Review

Lighting 4 shows you how to create natural-looking lighting with artificial lights like flashes and strobes. The course has 19 lessons, each lasting around six hours.

SLR designed this course for aspiring professionals and motivated amateurs. It’s for those who already understand camera settings, lighting patterns, modifiers, color, and power.

The lessons are like recipes, providing tested solutions for different lighting patterns. Pye Jirsa, the instructor, explains each setup from start to finish. He provides sketches to clarify the configurations. RAW files are available for download so you can follow along and experiment.

The course is well-produced and informative. But you need some serious gear to follow along, such as multiple flashes, triggers, softboxes, and stands. Lighting 4 is a great choice to learn how to simulate natural light using your equipment.

Review our full SLR Lounge Lighting 4 article to see if it’s the right course for you!

We Highly Recommend
Lighting 4 by SLR Lounge
SLR Lounge's Lighting 4
Discover how to create natural-looking lighting with artificial sources in this advanced lighting online course. Perfect for aspiring professionals and highly motivated amateurs.