One of the best ways for a beginning- to intermediate-level photographer to improve his or her skills is learning about how lighting and angles affect photographic results. Using a variety of angles in your lighting sources can greatly change the way a subject looks. And once you have a good understanding of how angles in lighting work, you can use that to your advantage to exaggerate angles in the scene, creating a unique look.
Use these tips to help you use lighting and angles to your benefit, and take the next step forward in your photographic success. First, we'll discuss how to use different angles of lighting sources.
- You can completely change the look of a photography subject with a different angle. For example, shooting a clear object at eye level with a dark background will create one look. Shooting that same object from a 45-degree angle above the object, however, will change the angles of the external light. You now may show some shadows, which can add some artistic elements to the photo. If the table on which the clear object rests offers a light-colored background, you’ll completely change the look of the object versus the dark background, all without moving the object.
- Changing the lighting on an object can help you achieve the look you want in a photo. For example, say you have an object that has an interesting shape, along with fine detail. If you want the photo to highlight the object’s shape, muddy the lighting a bit so that the detail is not noticeable, forcing the viewer to focus on the shape. To highlight the object’s fine detail, increase the amount of light you’re using so that the fine detail is easy to see.
- Many photographers are using LED lights more often to provide additional light in a scene, as they’re small and powerful. However, keep in mind how the color of the LED lights you’re using will affect the photograph. Try to use only LED lights that have the same color.
- Because LED lights carry precise light beams, they also may create a different reflection on your subject than other types of lighting. Use a few different angles on the subject or adjust the angle or intensity of the LEDs to change the reflection.
- Finding just the right lighting and angles can be especially difficult on round objects. The curves on the round object can create “hot spots,” which are areas where the light is especially strong, creating a white light on the object that you might not want in your photo. It also can be difficult to evenly light a round object. Take your time to get the lighting just right on a round subject.
- Finally, using lighting and angles is a great way to highlight a certain portion of the object. Rather than attempting to light the object evenly, draw the viewer’s attention to a certain part of the object by only strongly lighting one part of the object. You have to be a little careful with this technique that you don’t get odd shadows or hot spots from the more intense lighting.
Having Success With Angles
With a good feel for how lighting sources coming from different angles can affect your photographs, now you're ready to make angles the primary aspect of the images. Use the lighting tips above to help you shoot great photos of angles, as shown in the tips below.
- One mistake many photographers make when trying to highlight angles in a scene is they don’t shoot the scene tightly enough. Fill the frame with the portion of the scene on which you want viewers to focus. Keep the clutter out of the scene. Use a different lens or move closer to the scene to make sure that the composition is as tight as it should be. Just make sure that your lighting is really good in the tight portion of the scene you want to highlight.
- You can use angles to exaggerate the look of the scene. For example, you can shoot from a really low vantage point to make a building look even taller. Once you change your perspective to the building, you’ll also find that the various angles the building creates will change, too, giving your images some interesting looks. Using a different shooting angle can greatly change the look of shadows, too, so make sure that you don't lose details of the building's angles in shadows.
- Consider shooting scenes that have one angle in the background and a contrasting angle in the foreground. Perhaps a stairway in the foreground of the scene can stand in contrast to a row of angled windows on a building in the background. Again, shadows can greatly affect this type of photograph, so closely consider the lighting and how it's striking each of the contrasting angles.