Understand the Difference & Learn to Use Types of Lighting in Photography

Understand the Difference & Learn to Use Types of Lighting in Photography

The essence of art for photography largely rests on the lighting style. Photography is basically how you capture light, and using the right light will ensure just that. Read on, as we list the different types of lighting in photography and elucidate their applications‌.

Lights – The Art Behind Photography

Photography is counted among the purest forms of art where capturing the moment and perfect shots depend entirely on lighting. Since it is basically capturing light, a lot of emphasis needs to be put on lighting methods and their direct impact on the output. Sure, you can have post-production services to fix it all up, but the initial stage of setting up the right lighting can be the ultimate difference maker. Now, let’s dive into details and understand every aspect of lighting styles in photography.

The Elements of Proper Lighting

To understand the perfect lighting conditions for photography, we first need to brush over the basic elements of lighting. The combination of the four elements of lighting is what makes lighting types stand out.


Light isn’t always white, and while we believe most lights to be of uniform color, their color usually has a significant impact on the subject. Adjusting the right color balance for lighting makes the subject vibrant.


You’ve probably seen photos absolutely ruined by overexposure or underexposure, and this is basically caused by uncontrolled light intensity. Controlling light intensity is the movement of professionals, bringing the subject into clarity.


Sometimes, the direction of the light is what determines the artistic appeal of your photos. Light coming from a certain direction has the ability to cast perfect shadows while highlighting the right areas, contributing to the perfect output.


Apparently, we can’t simply point a spotlight at a subject and expect the best possible output, as it is usually ruined by horrible exposure. Making the light softer makes the subject appear more artistic through the help of reflectors.

Types of Lighting – Differences & Application

With the elements of lighting in check, we can now discuss the most widely used lighting methods in an application for photography. These are also the most widely used lighting methods for professionals with each having its own uses and properties.

Front light

Front light often referred to as flat lighting is done by focusing the light directly on the subject from the front. This lighting allows a more even spread of light on the subject, eliminating the chances of shadows occurring. This often results in a smooth output with little to no details of shadows in focus.


Front light is usually used for portraits or specific product images, where a front focus light is most necessary to highlight as many features as possible. This lighting provides little to no room for artistic rendering since it is simply light shone on the subject.

Natural Light

As the name suggests, natural light is basically using the light from the sun to light up your subject. There are quite a lot of precautions involved when using natural light, especially the angle, and intensity of the sun along with tracking the time of the day. Natural light produces the best and most artistic shots, only produced through professional photographers who know how to make the best use of this.


Photographs taken in natural light may produce a plethora of shadowss and shades, along with its own balance of colors. It is often used for outdoor photography and often for product photography when coupled with the purpose in mind.


To make your photography experience more interesting, you may have already experimented with backlight. This is when the source of the light is right behind the subject, resulting in either a silhouette or a very dimmed focus from the sides. It takes experience and training to use backlight, especially with the challenge of setting the right amount of exposure and focus.


Being among the most challenging forms of lighting for photography, it is used for rare model photography and other artistic shots that may give up highlights to make way for artistic shadows and softer lighting.

Soft Light

Soft light is less of a type of light, and more of a technical modification. When the light from a source is diffused with the use of screens, it creates a softer form of the light, resulting in softer shadows and the elimination of smaller details such as wrinkles and dimples. Soft light is among the lights used most by commercial photographers.


Soft light is mostly used for simple portrait and model photography that has a longer range of focus. The light was meant for shots taken from a distance, or when the subject, as a whole, is to be highlighted.

Hard Light

When you’re focusing an unobstructed light directly on a subject, it is referred to as “hard light”. Unlike soft light, this may end up casting very prominent shadows, while highlighting certain areas according to the photographer’s wishes. This form of lighting also reduces the smooth 3d effect substantially and is meant for simple photography.


For hard-focus photography, professionals prefer to use hard light. This is especially useful for product photography that aims to highlight surfaces and cast perfect shadows. Hard light may also play a part in reflections and bring in an artistic edge to the output.

Split Lighting

Split lighting is more of a lighting technique rather than a type. It is basically when you shine a light on the subject from a perpendicular angle, creating shadows on one side, while highlighting the other. This technique results in artistic shots used by professional photographers for high-profile shoots.


To make images more intriguing and appealing, split lighting is the go-to technique for professional photographers. It is used for portraits as well as full-body shots. Even some products get the special treatment of split photography depending on the requirements and the nature of the product itself…


To sum it all up, these lighting styles make up the majority of what professionals rely on using. Standardization has made these practices a requirement for professional photography while also making the purpose of the shoot crystal clear. If you’re looking to make the best of your photography, picking one of these will work wonder for you.

Tazim Ul Mulk

Tazim Ul Mulk

As a fervent writer and an enthusiast in the beauty of imagery, I wish to show the world the true meaning behind each image.