8 Types of Photography Lighting: A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to photography, lighting is one of the most important elements. It can make or break a photo, and it's essential to understand the different types of lighting and how to use them. In this article, we'll discuss 8 types of photography lighting: flat light, ambient light, open shadow, ample light, wide light, short light, split light, edge light, loop light, and soft light.

Flat Light

is when the light source is directly facing the front of the subject.

This type of lighting works especially well for portrait photography as it allows the natural appeal of the subject to shine. To set it up, simply place the light in front of and slightly above the subject's face and tilt it until it is “flat” on the face.

Ambient Light

is defined as lighting that the photographer does not add to the scene. Sunlight can be ambient lighting, but so can a streetlight or moonlight.

The objective of ambient lighting is usually to obtain soft, evenly distributed light that can bounce from one surface to another. You can use modifiers to reflect it or move around the subject until you get the desired lighting.

Open Shadow

is a technique that involves reflecting natural ambient light in a shaded area to create more diffused light. This gives the subject a soft, even and delicate glow.

Ample Light

is actually a type of side lighting where the best-illuminated side of the subject faces the camera and the least illuminated side is away from the camera.

Wide Light

is a technique that provides more contrast to the image than other types of lighting.

Short Light

is the opposite of wide lighting. This is where the shadow falls on the side of the face closest to the camera.

This technique is flattering for most face types and works well to make a full face look slimmer. It's also good if you're trying to create images with more depth.

Split Light

is when the light source hits the subject from one side at an angle of ninety degrees, creating a division of light and shadow.


is just what it sounds like: the light source is behind the subject. It can be used to create silhouettes or combined with certain weather conditions for more dramatic images.

Edge Light

is when light hits the subject at an angle so that it creates reflections along the edges of the subject. This highlights the shape of the subject and is an excellent technique for separating it from its background.

Loop Light

is another reference technique for portrait photography because it favors almost all subjects.

It creates more depth than flat lighting by keeping the subject well lit.

Soft Light

is created by diffusing the light source with an umbrella or a diffused lens. It creates light with a wide, diffused focus in the subject's eyes which is perfect for portrait photography. Understanding these 8 types of photography lighting will help you take better photos and create stunning images that capture your subjects in their best light.

Lynda Campuzano
Lynda Campuzano

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