Light is all around us, and is what we use to make our pictures. Without light, we cannot take an image. Even at night, there is always light around. There are all different types of light but there are typically four main types of light.
Hard Light – Soft Light – Transmitted Light – Reflecting Light
Hard light comes from any light source that is appears small. (ie. The sun on a clear day). The sun isn’t really that small but because it is so far away it becomes a very small but very bright light bulb in the sky.
Hard light gives very harsh light and intense shadows. It also adds sharpness and a small sparkle to the light. This is also called high contrast light.
If the light source is at the right angle to a subject, it will bring out the form, texture and enhance your subject.
Soft light comes from any light source that is shining through a large surface area. Much like the sun shining through clouds on an overcast day. Though this could be studio lights shining through a scrim or soft box.
Soft light is very low in contrast and gives very soft shadows and sometimes even none at all.
Be careful how you use soft light. If used in the wrong way your image can look very dull.
Transmitted light is very easy. It is as simple as being able to see the light source in the picture you are taking. This could be the sun during a sunrise/sunset or even a desk lamp in an interior shot.
The transmitted light in this image are the lightbulbs running along the wall, lighting the left side of the model's face.
Reflecting light is light that is reflecting off any surface that can be seen in the image. The sun shinning off wet sand at a beach, or the sun reflecting in the windows of a skyscraper in the city.
Reflecting light is typically a combination of hard light and transmitted light.
Along with the different type of light, there a various ways you can shape and utilise this light to create an interesting image. Lighting styles like split lighting and butterfly lighting can be used to create dramatic portraits. We'll looking at light styles in a future article.