A Simple Exercise Every Photographer Can Do to Teach Themselves Lighting

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm X100s the party weekend (26 of 31)ISO 64001-20 sec at f - 4.0

Learning about lighting (not necessarily learning to light) is something that every photographer should know and care about. Light is quite literally what helps you to create the images that you do– and it can be done very easily and very efficiently once you understand it. But you shouldn’t be intimidated by it. or at least this one simple exercise will make it easier for you.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm X100s the party weekend (17 of 31)ISO 64001-35 sec at f - 2.0

Before you go on, I encourage you to save this post in some way. Print it out, screenshot it; I don’t care. But it’s going to be what teaches you how to light. And if you follow through with it and take careful notes and observations, you’ll efficiently learn how to light.

Go outside at night and make sure that pretty much all of the lights are off. Try your backyard, fire escape, balcony, etc. Then on a table, place a small object like an Apple. Then take a candle or a small LED light and place it by the small object. Light the candle or turn on the LED. Observe how it illuminates the object.

Then add another light in another random spot around and take careful notes of the shadows, details, etc. Add another light, repeat. Keep doing this until you somehow or another completely cover the apple in totally soft light.

Chris Gampat the Phoblographer Sony A7s product images (1 of 8)ISO 16001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Then try this with a slightly larger object like a bottle. Try to not only place the lights on the table, but above and around it. Create soft light.

Then do it again with a larger object.

What all of these small lights will teach you is how large a light source one needs to effectively light an object.

It’s much better to do this in person than to use some sort of software because you’ll see it first hand and experience what you can do in person. Then when it comes to creating a scene, you’ll understand the way that light works.