Photography Cheat Sheet: Light Fall Off Visual Guide

Today’s photography cheat sheet demonstrates how light fall off affects the way subjects are illuminated based on how far they are from the light source.

Not so long ago, we shared a simple illustration of how the Inverse Square Law works and how it affects the way your subjects or scenes are lit. If you found it useful for understanding the technicalities of the relationship between distance and the brightness of light, we have another visual guide for you. This time, it shows us the law at work in the studio!

In the simple but effective Light Fall Off Visual Guide by Udi Tirosh, we take a look at how the intensity of light changes based on the distance of a light source from the subject. If you’re planning to shoot a lot of portraits in the studio, this is an important lesson that will determine the look or mood of your photos.

The guide demonstrates that the light looks strongest the closer it is to the subject, then gets dimmer as you move it further away. It also shows that the fall off — or the dimness of light on the far side — is more drastic when the light source is closer to the subject. This knowledge is particularly helpful when it comes to lighting your subject.

Do you want strong shadows and a brightly-lit subject for a dramatic and contrasty look? A light source placed close to the subject will do the trick. Do you want a soft, diffused light that is less dramatic but universally flattering? Place it further away from the subject to achieve the look your shot requires. The guide also includes examples of what the results look like when a silver reflector is used to illuminate the shadows and create even lighting on your subject.

Need more photography tips and tricks like this? Don’t forget to check out our photography cheat sheet collection to find more that will come in handy for your next shoot and projects!