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Photography 101 – Flash and lighting modifiers

May 5, 2020

As many photographers know, natural light is often the best and most emulated form of lighting. When natural lighting is not available or if natural lighting is not working in your favor, you might need to use flash or lighting accessories. 

Below, we will discuss using different types of lighting accessories for indoor and outdoor scenarios. We will focus on reflectors, softboxes, on-camera flash, continuous lighting and backlighting, giving you an understanding of the equipment types and how to use them. 

Lighting types

Reflector: a reflector bounces light from one source to another, redirecting the existing light.  

Softbox: a softbox is a lighting modifier. It is a reflective surface that you attach to diffuse your light and make it more even. This can reduce the look of harsh shadows. 

On-camera flash: this is the flash that is attached to your camera, usually used to brighten photos to avoid underexposure.  

Continuous lighting: this is LED or fluorescent lighting used to brighten your photo.  

Backlighting: backlighting is lighting your subject from the back, which can give a softness or glowing effect. 

Indoor Lighting 

Indoor photography can be tricky when it comes to lighting. Many places are not set up to let in large amounts of light, or the color of the room can affect the color of your image, etc. When shooting indoors it can be beneficial to use your on-camera flash, continuous lighting or a softbox. 

If you are using your on-camera flash, you need to consider that it will incorporate the colors in the room. If you are in a light-colored room this may not be an issue, but if you are in a dark room with red walls for example, the flash will illuminate the red color. How can you avoid this situation? Position a white card at a 45-degree angle in front of the flash when you take the shot. The flash will reflect off the white card instead of the darker room colors which will greatly brighten up your photo.  

Another way to light a room is to use continuous lighting or a softbox. You can light your photos from different angles to illuminate your photos to your preference. Using a backlight can be particularly successful indoor too – place a light source behind your subject and take a photo from the front.  

Outdoor Lighting  

Now, as we have mentioned before it is always good to use natural light when you can! But in some situations, natural light can be tedious to work with. The sun may not be in the correct spot or too much light could lead to your image getting overexposed. If you are shooting in the late afternoon you will be losing light as the day goes on. You may need to bring in some reinforcements. 

A good option is continuous lighting or a softbox. This will make sure that your image is not getting under or overexposed. Using these two options will help boost the light that you are using or brighten up a dark spot of a photo.  

As we mentioned earlier, another way to light a photo is backlighting. This technique can be helpful but it may not work perfectly when using natural light. Your image may be over or underexposed or depending on the lighting. This can be fixed by using a reflector or a softbox. A reflector will help you bounce the light from one light source to another helping you to evenly light your photo. You could also use a softbox to evenly disperse the lighting.  



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