11 Types of Photography Lighting And Techniques: Ultimate Guide

Ever realized how the right light can turn a simple scene into an awe-inspiring photo? It doesn't matter if you're just starting in photography or if you’ve been at it for years - getting a grip on the nuances of lighting in photography is a game-changer. It’s the secret to transforming decent shots into spellbinding images that truly reflect your style.

In this guide, we're diving into the fascinating world of photography lighting. We’ll explore 11 different types to show you just how much they can elevate your work. Think about the softness of morning light for a delicate effect, or the bold contrast of midday sun for drama.

But this journey is more than just learning the how-tos; it’s about equipping you to turn each of your shots into something truly remarkable.


In every photo we snap, it's the lighting that really brings the scene to life, sets the whole vibe, and gives depth to our visual stories. Understanding lighting for photography is all about grasping how light plays with the surroundings – it’s what creates those captivating shades, highlights, and shadows that really make our subjects pop.Whether we're basking in the gentle glow of a sunset or making the most of the dramatic effects in studio lighting, each type of lighting adds its own special touch to our work.

We've noticed in our shoots how the right lighting techniques can elevate even the simplest subjects, like playing with backlighting during a sunset portrait session. That small tweak can turn a regular shot into something magical, bathing the subject in this incredible golden light that nails the mood.

Really, photography lighting basics come down to striking that ideal mix of light and shadow to bring out the best in every image.


There's no one-size-fits-all approach here – just like in editing, the real magic is in discovering what clicks for you. It's about playing with both the light and airy illumination of sunlight and the defined precision of artificial sources.

For example, there's something special about the 'golden hour' – that time just after sunrise or right before sunset. The light during these hours is softer and has a warm hue that casts elongated, tender shadows - it adds a kind of dreamy, almost enchanted quality to your images.

On the flip side, artificial lighting for photography, like studio lights or even a simple flash, gives you more control. You can tweak the light's direction, strength, and even its color. We love using a single artificial light in a dim room to create deep shadows, which can add a layer of intrigue or intensity to a portrait or still life.

The bottom line in photography lighting techniques? It's all about trying things out and observing how different lights play with your subject.


Having explored the pivotal role of lighting for photography, it's time to dive into the diverse world of lighting techniques. Each style, from the bold drama of backlighting to the understated elegance of ambient light, opens up a realm of creative possibilities.

Ambient Light

Let's talk about ambient light, the art of harnessing the light that's naturally available to us. When we play with ambient light in our photography, we're really tuning into the way light naturally dances around us all day. 

For those softer, more ethereal images, we often shoot during the golden hour. Indoors, it's about making friends with window light. Position your subject near a window, and you'll see how this creates a natural effect that's hard to replicate. It's incredible how it flatters everything! The real secret to mastering ambient light for photography? It's observation and adaptation.

Flat Lighting

We've found flat lighting to be a real game-changer for flattering portraits. All you need to do is pop your light source (we love a good softbox) right in front of your subject. This setup ensures the light spreads evenly across the face, eliminating harsh shadows and smoothing out skin imperfections.

Flat lighting is straightforward but incredibly effective in photography. It's our go-to lighting technique forheadshots or beauty shots, especially when the goal is to minimize texture and emphasize clarity. 

Broad Lighting

Broad lighting is like the secret ingredient that adds fullness and depth to our entire portfolio. We set up the light to the side, getting it just right so it flatters the subject's face. Have them turn a bit away from the light, and voilà – you’ve got this stunning interplay of light and shadow. It’s a type of photography lighting that’s especially great for giving slimmer faces more depth and character. 

Short Lighting

And then there’s short lighting – our favorite trick for adding drama and that sculptural look to portraits. Angle your light at about 45 degrees, and guide your subject to turn into it. This lighting technique casts shadows over the larger part of the face, which not only creates depth but also brings an intensity to the image.

Short lighting is our secret weapon for sculpting facial features and adding that dramatic flair. It's particularly effective for dark and moody or more artistic shots. 

Split Lighting

Split lighting is all about drama and depth. It works wonders for artistic and character-driven portraits. Want to try it? Just place your light source right at a perpendicular angle to your subject. This photography lighting technique divides the face into distinct halves of light and shadow, really bringing out the texture and character. Play around with the light’s distance and angle to tweak the shadow intensity to your liking.


Backlighting is perfect when you’re aiming for that silhouette effect or a halo-like glow around your subject. Simply position your light behind them. It's a bit of trial and error with the angles, but that’s part of the fun, right? And if you don’t want a full silhouette, a reflector or a secondary light can softly light up your subject’s face. This type of lighting in photography adds a breezy, artistic vibe to your shots.

Rim Light

Rim lighting in photography is about adding a dynamic pop to your subject, highlighting their outlines with a sort of glowing effect. Place a light source behind and a bit above your subject to get this cool luminous outline, separating them from the background. It’s a great trick for low-key photo lighting, where the focus is all about form and contours.

Butterfly Light

This lighting technique gets its name from the unique shadow it casts under the nose, resembling a butterfly. It’s a favorite in fashion and beauty photography for its elegant touch. 

To achieve this look, position your light source directly in front and slightly above your subject’s face. It wonderfully highlights cheekbones and brings a glamorous, timeless feel to your portraits.

Loop Light

Loop lighting is both versatile and flattering, casting a small shadow of the nose on the cheek. To get this effect, position your light a bit to the side and above your subject’s eye level. It strikes a nice balance between shadow and light, making it perfect for detailed yet natural portraits. This photography lighting technique is super adaptable, great for both studio setups and natural lighting scenarios.

Soft Light

Soft light is like a gentle hug for your photos. It smooths out harsh shadows and contrast, giving everything a natural, easy-on-the-eyes look. 

Wondering how to achieve it? Think large light sources close to your subject, or even a cloudy day – nature’s very own softbox. It's a brilliant type of photography lighting for portraits and landscapes where you want to soften imperfections and give a more soothing feel to your images.

Hard Light

Then there’s hard light – the bold, unapologetic counterpart to soft light. It’s all about sharpness and high contrast. 

To create this effect, go for a small but intense light source. Think direct sunlight on a clear day or a focused beam. Hard lighting in photography really adds an edge, perfect for accentuating textures and crafting visuals with a bit of drama. It's especially cool in more artistic or edgy photography styles where you want to make a strong visual statement.


Achieving good lighting is a bit like mixing art with science. The first step? Scout your location at various times to really get a feel for how the natural light shifts throughout the day.

When dealing with bright conditions, reflectors and diffusers can be lifesavers for softening those harsh shadows. If you’re in a studio, this is where you can have some fun experimenting with different types of lighting in your photography – think of it as your playground for lighting!

And remember, embracing a bit of trial and error is a fantastic way to learn and refine your skills in photo lighting. Sometimes, the most striking lighting for your photography comes from the most unexpected places and angles. It’s all about keeping an open mind and enjoying the process of discovery.


Learning the art of lighting for photography is a journey of discovery and experimentation. Each lighting technique we’ve talked about opens up new ways of seeing things, not to mention a whole spectrum of creative possibilities.

We encourage you to play around with different types of lighting in your photography. If you're ever unsure, just let your curiosity take the lead. It’s your best friend in pushing the boundaries and discovering new realms of expression and beauty in your photography.

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