Photographic Lighting
Since reflected light is what photographic films/sensors use to create images,
lighting is clearly a key element in all kinds of photography.

Light sources are divided into two major categories.

Reflected Daylight
Studio Lights
Note that natural light is not necessarily outdoor, nor is artificial light exclusively indoor. Some of the best outdoor shots use flash to "fill" harsh shadows, while an indoor scene may rely entirely on filtered window light.


Light may also be classified by its direction with relation to the subject.
There are four of these classifications for light (natural or artificial).


high contrast - harsh shadows

This is a typical example of the harsh shadows that result when the sun is high in the sky. When it is necessary to shoot at this time of day, flash "fill" can help.


flat, lacks depth, dimension



may require additional fill or reflector

fishhook cactus


good for bringing out textures, defining shapes

The side lighting brings out the texture of the petals and emphasizes the cactus spines.


(clouds filtering sun)
lower contrast, good for details, fewer shadows

The diffused light from an overcast or partly cloudy sky allows you to see the details of the coyote's expression and the variety of shades in his fur.


Another characteristic of light is the quality, often defined as "hard" or "soft." Hard light is very bright, resulting in sharp shadows, while soft light is diffused, displaying better range of details, as with the Overcast condition mentioned above.

night-time outdoor shot with artifical overhead lighting & flash

early morning sunlight

How to Use Shadows to Enhance Your Composition

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