- Group Portraits
- Small Product Photography
- Documentation for Insurance
- Types of Portrait Lights
- Advantages of Using a Softbox for Portrait Photography
- What Is Fresnel Lighting?
- Quick & Simple Video Lighting Tips
- Video Tripod Buying Guide
- Lighting Options for Recording Video at Home
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Knowing how to position lights for photography and videography are important skills for beginner photographers to learn. Many intermediate and advanced photographers might also benefit from a refresher covering photography lighting techniques.
There are as many photography lighting setups as there are types of photography lights. Some of the most used photography lighting setups have their own name, such as Rembrandt lighting or butterfly lighting. Check out our specific photography lighting guides to learn how to position lights for photography with those configurations, today we’ll take a more general approach.
When to Use Photography Lighting
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There’s a running joke among some photographers I know that if someone says they prefer natural light, it’s because they haven’t learned how to position lights for photography yet. That’s actually understandable because we’ve all seen the difference between a well lit scene and one that looks either flat or harsh because the lighting was not positioned properly.
Photography lighting for beginners is actually easy to learn and put into practice right away. After all, lighting is one of the basic elements at the heart of photography and videography, so here are some situations when photography lighting is a good option.
Portrait Photography Lighting
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I put this at the number one position because most beginners want to know how to position lights for photography of their friends and family. An on camera flash is convenient to use but can provide flat or harsh light which may not be very flattering to the subject.
One of the first photography lighting configurations we can learn and use is to simply put the light off to one side. For a simple setup, I like to position the subject with their body posed to one side a bit, maybe 45 degrees, and have them turn their face toward the camera.
Place one light on a stand about 45 degrees to their side and 30 to 45 degrees above them. With the posing position they’re in, this simple setup provides loop lighting, meaning there’s a small loop of shadow from their nose. Use a soft light for a flattering modelling effect, a harder light will provide drama.
Types of Portrait Lighting
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With this basic photography lighting equipment and a few adjustments in light position and subject posing, you can also create board lighting, with the light falling on the side of the face closest to the camera you have broad light, if the light is falling on the side away from the camera, you have short lighting.
Adjust the light position and their pose just right and you can achieve Rembrandt lighting. For portraits of an individual, creating a shadow is key to modeling the facial features. Adjust power, hardness or softness, and the positions to get as much or as little modeling as desired.
All of this can be accomplished with one light. Plus, if that one light is a continuous light, then you can get double duty from it by using it for video, too.
Group Portrait Lighting
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Group portraits are one of the situations when a flatter light is often more desirable than any of the modeling effects of general portrait photography lighting setups. This is because the different poses and facial positions could cause all sorts of odd shadow effects.
Depending on how large a group it is and what the posing and positioning of everyone is going to be, you might have one large diffused light centrally placed or several soft lights fanned out from the camera position.
A small group like a family or several friends can be posed in a semi circle or a triangle and lit similarly to the first portrait method we listed above. A larger group, such an office staff or theatre troupe may be arranged in more of a line formation. A bank of softboxes laid out in a line, equidistant from each other is a good method of how to position lights for photography of large groups which will result in few obscuring facial shadows.
Small Product Photography
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Selling things online requires clear images of the items, so photography lighting is important for this, too. An excellent method of how to position lights for photography of small products is to use a light tent and one or two small continuous lights.
I like to recommend continuous LED lights as photography lighting for beginners shooting small product photography since it’s easy to see where the obscuring shadows are falling. Using softer lights, such as a soft box, is often more desirable for small product photography.
For really small items, a ring light is a fantastic option. A ring light allows you to shoot through a circle of light, allowing virtually shadowless photos of your tiny subjects captured close up. The Oryon RLB40-M 14” ring light from Ikan is a good example of this style of light.
Lighting for Vlogging
Sometimes an on camera light is our best option. Filming yourself or someone else for a vlog is an example of one of those times. You won’t need to wonder how to position lights for photography when the light is mounted on your camera, but it’s nice to have some versatility in adjustment available with the light.
Again, I like to recommend continuous LED photography lighting for beginners since it’s a simple process to calculate exposure and you can see what’s going on as you adjust the lighting. Ikan makes a great light for this purpose, too, the Onyx OYB120 LED light is compact, powerful, and versatile, making it a great option.
This battery powered LED light is compact in size and weight, making it a good fit for most of the entry level and intermediate DSLRs and mirrorless cameras I’ve reviewed recently. It’s battery powered, very bright, and has adjustments for changing power levels and the color temperature of the light to balance with ambient lighting.
I like using Ikan for photography, videography, and audio accessories for my own use and for recommending to others. Since Ikan designs and makes their own equipment, they are able to provide very high quality, innovative, and useful equipment for lower prices than other brands.
Since we’re using one light on camera for many of our vlogging sessions, being able to tilt the light up for bouncing off a ceiling or varying the power level gives us the control we want for better looking videos and still images.
Documentation for Insurance
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An added benefit of having a digital camera and decent lighting is that we can make a video or a series of still images of our properties and belongings which can be used as insurance documentation. It’s a simple video shoot to use an on camera LED light like the Onyx OYB120 and our entry level camera with kit lens to make a walk through video we can upload to the Cloud.
How to Position Lights for Photography and Videography
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It really isn’t that difficult to learn how to position lights for photography and videography of all sorts of subjects from portraits to products to vlogging. Using continuous lights helps us see immediately what the changes we’re making are doing for the scene we’re photographing or recording.
Have a look at some of our other articles discussing photography lighting techniques for lots more information of how to position lights for photography.