Chuck Gardner's Photography Class
Part Two A - Lighting
by Chuck Gardner
Photography is the art of illusion, tricking the viewer into thinking an image reproduced on a two-dimensional piece of paper or a computer screen is natural and three-dimensional. The third dimension in a photograph is created by the contrast between light and shadow. If a subject is illuminated with the light at or near the camera lens there will be virtually no shadows and the resulting image will look flat. Moving the light source away from the camera lens position will create shadows and the illusion of depth. But because the range of brightness film or a digital camera can record is limited, the detail in the shadow areas will be lost unless some method of "fill" light is used. Fill light can be provided two ways: 1) a reflector which redirects the single light source into the dark shadows, or 2) a second light source.

Natural Lighting:The simplest and cheapest lighting set-up is the same one artists over the ages have used; a north facing window facing away from the direct rays of the sun. This type of lighting has several obvious drawbacks. The biggest is that the subject and background rather than the light must be moved to photograph various angles, however it is still suitable for a wide variety of poses. The second limitation is providing a adequate source of fill light, but a large piece of cardboard which is white on one side and covered with aluminum foil on the other (dull side up) works quite well. After the subject is posed to the light streaming through the window the reflector is moved in from the opposite (shadow) side, reflecting the window light back into the shadow and lightening them.

Artificial lighting: The principles of using artificial lighting are similar. It is possible to use a single light plus a reflector, as with natural lighting, but the usual practice is to use two lights of equal strength, one placed to the side of the subject (i.e., the main or key light) and the second placed behind and slightly above the camera to provide fill.

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