Photography 101: Lighting

Whether you’re a professional photographer, a photography enthusiast, or simply own a camera, we all play by the same basic photography principles.

So far we’ve covered seven of twelve basics:

Few things can make or break a photograph quicker than lighting. In fact, I’ll go so far as to suggest that lighting is the single most important aspect of photography. The word “photography” literally means “light writing.”

At Beaufort Photography Co. we are primarily “natural light” photographers. In other words, we rarely use flash or artificial lighting to capture a scene. While some photographers use this term to avoid learning the sometimes involved lighting techniques available with artificial lighting, for us it is a conscious philosophical choice that helps create our artistic vision. While more difficult to capture a great image using only natural lighting, we find shooting in natural light offers a more realistic photograph.

Many of the professional photographers along the Crystal Coast tend to extensively use artificial lighting – as fill flash or to create a certain mood or to evenly illuminate every element of a photo. While this makes for a very polished photograph, more often than not it just doesn’t appear realistic. It looks like something produced by Hollywood on a film set. Again, this is all well and fine if this is the effect one desires.

Below are a few factors to keep in mind when shooting in natural light:



When shooting exclusively using natural light, one has to really be on top of the things we’ve talked about thus far in this series – exposure, aperture, depth of field, shutter speed, ISO, white balance – and how they work in unison to capture the natural lighting in a scene.

Photography 101 Lighting



Some locations are more conducive to natural light photography than others. Use locations which incorporate natural diffusers if the lighting is overly harsh. Adjust your angle or perspective when capturing a shot to utilize the best light.

Photography 101 Lighting


Time of Day

While natural light photographers love that time of day known as the golden hour (the period shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset), sometimes we have to shoot at noon or in the rain or after the sun sets. Again, knowing the basics of photography will help you get the most out of poor lighting conditions.

Photography 101 Lighting



Learn to shoot in all qualities of lighting – harsh, diffused, poor weather, direct, indirect, etc. The quality of light can turn a bad photo into a good photo and a good photos into a great photo.

Photography 101 Lighting