Photography is an art. People spend hours in museums and galleries analyzing a photograph looking for a hidden meaning. Like paintings, photographs also have a message; sometimes it will create sadness or happiness, a carefree attitude, or calm mood. The range is broad. There are many techniques a new photographer can learn to produce emotions they like to create. One technique is using artificial or studio lighting. Artificial or studio source may not be as fun and easy as natural light, but once you know certain techniques you can create some magnificent photographs.
Tungsten bulbs and portable flash units are most often used by professional photographers in a studio environment. Tungsten bulbs are nicknamed “hot lights” because of the high temperature they cause. A tungsten bulb will create more red and lower the blue. In other words tungsten produces warmer colors. Flash units are able to capture or freeze the action due to their high flash speed.
Most studio illumination kits come with accessories that creates Hard and Soft light effects. For example; umbrellas and collapsible white/silver reflectors diffuse the light to create soft light effect. In general soft light is known as spreading the light evenly. On the other hand hard light will add contrast and harsh shadows.
When using an indoor source especially artificial light you need to understand exposure. When the environment is darker it takes longer to expose the film to capture an image. On the other hand if you overexpose an image, most of your details will be washed out.
Another important consideration is the angle of the light. It’s recommended to use tripods to change the angle to suit your needs. The angle of the light creates various types like front, back or side light.
Raising or lowering the light source is another effective way to manipulate studio effects. Using an adjustable leg or a tripod you can raise or lower your main or side sources. This way you can create high or under light effects. The brightest light in a studio setup is also known as the “main light.”
The positioning of your main light determines the overall composition and its details. For example a direct or diffused main light from the front will flatter your subject. The placement of the main light will determine where the highlights and shadows take place.
Raising the main source will minimize or eliminate unwanted shadows. On the other hand lowering the main light also known as under light creates the most unnatural light effect.
Directing main light straight at the object will bounce the light everywhere. It is recommended to shoot from the side or up from the ground to control shadows and highlights. Especially when shooting portraits it is good idea to use more than one high side light in order to create a natural look.
As a general rule when shooting subjects or objects you want to try and attain three dimensional look. The shadows often provide a three dimensional contrast if you find the correct planes and angle to shoot from. Keep in mind that fire and candle light can be used indoors to create shadows and depth.
Following some basic lighting tips will increase your photography skills. Many beginners find taking a course on lighting and having a few books on the subject will help them learn proper lighting techniques. Just remember that even after choosing the proper lighting technique one can still enhance the object or make it look more natural.
Perfection comes with time and practice. Also keep in mind that even if studio lighting provides more control over natural light, sometimes an image can turn out better with outdoor light. It is simply a preference.