Advanced Photography Lighting: 8 Stunning Techniques
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Use the Sun as a Backlight
  2. Create Dramatic Shadows with Side Lighting
  3. Produce Soft Shadows with Diffused Lighting
  4. How to Use Reflectors for Fill Light
  5. Enhance Texture with Hard Lighting
  6. Manipulate Mood with Color Gels
  7. Light Painting Techniques
  8. Create Depth with Rim Lighting

Photography is an art form that's as much about the light as it is about the subject. Mastering advanced lighting techniques in photography can transform your photos from good to breathtaking. In this blog, we'll journey together through eight stunning techniques, each one an opportunity to level up your photography skills and create unforgettable images.

Use the Sun as a Backlight

Let's start with a natural light source we all know—the sun. Using the sun as a backlight is one of the advanced lighting techniques in photography that can create magical results. It's all about letting the sun enhance your image, not overpower it. Here's how:

  • Choose the right time of day: The golden hours—shortly after sunrise and before sunset—are perfect for backlit photos. The sun is lower in the sky, providing a warm, soft glow that can make your subjects look like they're radiating light.
  • Position your subject: Place your subject between you and the sun. This makes the light wrap around your subject, creating a beautiful halo effect. It also helps to minimize harsh shadows.
  • Adjust your settings: To balance the bright background with your subject, you'll need to play around with your camera settings. Try bumping up your exposure or using spot metering on your subject.
  • Experiment with flare: Sun flare can add an artistic touch to your photos. You can create it by shooting towards the sun, but be sure to adjust your position until you capture just the right amount of flare.

Remember, practice makes perfect! The more you experiment with this advanced lighting technique, the more you'll understand how to use the sun to your advantage in photography. Every sunrise and sunset is an opportunity to create something amazing.

Create Dramatic Shadows with Side Lighting

Next up in our exploration of advanced lighting techniques in photography is side lighting. This technique can create striking contrasts and highlight textures, resulting in dramatic, eye-catching images. Here's how to employ this technique:

  • Choose your light source: This could be a window, a lamp, or even the sun. The important thing is to ensure it's coming from the side, not directly behind or in front of your subject.
  • Position your subject: Place your subject so the light hits one side of it, leaving the other in shadow. This creates a contrast that can emphasize form and depth, giving your photo a three-dimensional feel.
  • Adjust your settings: Your camera settings will depend on the look you're going for. Lowering your exposure can deepen the shadows and increase the drama, while raising it can soften the effect.
  • Experiment with angles: The angle of the light can change the look of your image dramatically. Try different angles to see how they alter the shadows and highlights on your subject.

Side lighting is all about creating drama and depth. It's a game of light and shadow, and when you play it well, the results can be truly stunning. So why not give it a try? You might just find it becomes one of your go-to advanced lighting techniques in photography.

Produce Soft Shadows with Diffused Lighting

If dramatic shadows aren't your style, don't worry. Advanced lighting techniques in photography extend far beyond the dramatic. For a gentler, more subtle effect, diffused lighting is your best friend. Here's how you can make the most of this technique:

  • Choose your light source: For diffused lighting, you'll want a large, soft light source. Think cloudy skies, or a window with a sheer curtain.
  • Position your subject: Unlike side lighting, diffused lighting doesn't rely on direction for its effect. Instead, you'll want to position your subject based on the composition and mood you're aiming for.
  • Adjust your settings: With diffused light, you typically won't need to adjust your exposure as much. The soft, even light should allow for balanced exposures without much tweaking.
  • Play with intensity: While diffused lighting is generally subtle, you can play with the intensity of your light source to create different effects. Try moving your subject closer to or farther from the light source to see how it changes the look of your image.

Diffused lighting is all about subtlety and balance. It's the perfect choice for softer, more ethereal images. So next time the sky's overcast, don't pack away your camera. Instead, take advantage of the natural diffused light to experiment with this advanced lighting technique in photography. You might be surprised at the results!

How to Use Reflectors for Fill Light

When it comes to advanced lighting techniques in photography, knowing how to use reflectors for fill light is a game-changer. Reflectors can help you control shadows and light up darker areas in your frame, adding depth and detail where you want them. Here's a simple guide on how to use them:

  1. Pick your reflector: Reflectors come in various sizes and colors. A white reflector gives a softer light, while a silver one gives a stronger, more concentrated light. Gold reflectors can add a warm glow, perfect for sunset portraits.
  2. Place your reflector: The position of your reflector depends on where your main light source is coming from. Generally, you'll want to place the reflector opposite your main light source to bounce the light back onto your subject.
  3. Angle it right: The angle at which you hold your reflector will affect how the light bounces back. Play around with different angles to see what works best for your shot.
  4. Observe and adjust: Look at how the light changes as you move your reflector. You might need to adjust your camera settings to accommodate for the added light.

Remember, mastering advanced lighting techniques in photography, like using reflectors, might take some time. But with a bit of patience and practice, you'll be creating beautifully lit photos in no time.

Enhance Texture with Hard Lighting

As we continue our exploration of advanced lighting techniques in photography, it's time to discuss hard lighting. This technique can truly make your photos pop by bringing out the textures and details in your subjects. So, how can you use hard lighting to enhance texture? Let's break it down.

  1. Choose the right subject: Hard lighting works best on subjects with lots of texture. Think of a weathered wooden door, the wrinkles on a wise face, or the intricate details of a leaf.
  2. Set up your light source: The key to hard lighting is a strong, direct light source. You can use natural sunlight, but for more control, consider a focused studio light or a flash without a diffuser.
  3. Position your light: To create hard light, place your light source close to your subject and off to one side. This will create strong shadows and emphasize textures.
  4. Experiment with angles: Changing the angle of your light source can dramatically alter the appearance of texture in your shot. Don't be afraid to experiment until you find the perfect angle.

Like many advanced lighting techniques in photography, hard lighting can be a bit tricky to master. But once you do, it's an incredibly powerful tool in your photographic arsenal. With hard lighting, texture becomes the star of the show—giving your photos depth, drama, and a whole lot of character.

Manipulate Mood with Color Gels

Advanced lighting techniques in photography go beyond just brightness and shadows. They also involve color. And one of the most creative ways to bring color into your lighting setup is by using color gels. But what are color gels, and how can they help you manipulate mood in your photographs?

  1. What are color gels?: Color gels are thin, flexible sheets of colored plastic that you can place over your lights. They come in a rainbow of colors, allowing you to add just about any hue to your lighting.
  2. Set the mood: Different colors can evoke different emotions. For example, warm colors like red and orange can create a sense of comfort and warmth, while cool colors like blue and green can evoke feelings of calm and serenity.
  3. Experiment with combinations: One of the great things about color gels is that you can mix and match them to create unique color effects. For instance, try using a blue gel on one light and a red gel on another to produce a dramatic, cinema-like look.
  4. Control the intensity: Remember, you have control over how intense the color effect is. The closer the gel is to your light source, the more saturated the color will be. Conversely, moving the gel further away will create a more subtle effect.

Using color gels is all about experimentation and creativity. It's a fun way to play with mood and emotion in your photographs. So don't be afraid to try something new and push your boundaries. After all, that's what advanced lighting techniques in photography are all about!

Light Painting Techniques

Time to put on your artist's hat and think of light as your paintbrush. You're probably thinking, "Wait, light as my paintbrush?" Yes, indeed! Welcome to the world of light painting, one of the most creative advanced lighting techniques in photography.

  1. What is light painting? : Light painting is a technique where you use a slow shutter speed and move a light source during the exposure to create interesting patterns and effects. It's like drawing in the air with light!
  2. Choosing your light source: You can use all sorts of light sources for light painting. From a simple flashlight to glow sticks, LED lights, or even your smartphone. Each will create a different effect, so feel free to experiment.
  3. Creating your masterpiece: Set your camera on a tripod and use a slow shutter speed. The longer the shutter is open, the more time you have to create your light painting. Then, press the shutter button and start moving your light source in front of the camera. You can create patterns, write words, or just let your creativity flow.
  4. Playing with colors: Remember our color gels from the previous section? You can use them here too! Add a color gel to your light source for a whole new dimension of creativity in your light painting.

Light painting is like a magic trick, where your camera captures the unseen dance of light and color. It might take some practice, but the results can be truly stunning. So go ahead, let your light shine and paint the night with your imagination!

Create Depth with Rim Lighting

Next on our journey through advanced lighting techniques in photography, we encounter rim lighting. This technique is all about creating depth and emphasizing the outline of your subject. Rim lighting can add a touch of drama to your photos, making them visually striking and helping your subject to really 'pop'. So, how do you achieve it? Let's break it down.

  1. Positioning the light source: For rim lighting, you'll want to position your light source behind your subject, pointing towards the camera. This creates a glowing 'rim' effect around the edges of your subject.
  2. Choosing the right background: A darker background will make the rim light stand out more. This contrast is what gives your photo depth and makes your subject appear three-dimensional.
  3. Controlling the light: Rim lighting requires precise control over the light source. Too much light, and your subject can become overexposed; too little, and the rim effect won't be visible. Using a light modifier, like a snoot or a grid, can help you control the light more effectively.
  4. Experiment and refine: As with any advanced lighting technique in photography, practice makes perfect. Experiment with different light sources, backgrounds, and subjects until you achieve the rim lighting effect you're after.

Rim lighting is a powerful tool in your photography toolkit. It can breathe life into a flat image, create a sense of depth, and highlight intricate details. It's no wonder that many photographers, from portrait artists to wildlife photographers, often use rim lighting to turn their photos from ordinary to extraordinary. So why not give it a try? You might be surprised at the amazing results you can achieve!

If you're eager to take your photography lighting skills to the next level, don't miss out on the workshop titled 'Augmented Photography' by Albertomaria. In this workshop, you'll learn even more stunning techniques to augment your photography and create truly captivating images. Expand your knowledge and master the art of photography lighting with this amazing workshop.