Understand Light and take Better Photographs


            • Learn about light, it's behaviour, it's characteristics and how it can be manipulated and used in photography
            • Expand and deepen your photographic skills

Lighting is a critical factor in photography.

This course will develop your understanding of light in photography and how to use different lighting equipment and techniques to achieve desired effects in a final image.

  1. Light Characteristics and Lighting Concepts
  2. Light Sources - continuous and flash
  3. Meters and Filters
  4. Other Equipment for Lighting
  5. Contrast and Composition
  6. The Zone System
  7. Studio Lighting
  8. On-Location Lighting

Course Aims

  • Discuss the scope and nature of lighting as relevant to photography.
  • Describe how different light sources will affect different images in varying ways.
  • Describe how different filters can be used to create different lighting effects.
  • Identify the differences between different types of light meters.
  • Describe the range of equipment which can be used to help achieve more desirable light conditions for photography.
  • Explain contrast and how to compensate for imperfect light conditions.
  • Explain how to use tone to create the desired final image.
  • Distinguish between utilisation of light in a studio and on location.

  • Duration
    : 100 Hours (you study at your own pace).

    What is in Each Lesson?

    1. Light Characteristics and Lighting Concepts

    • Intensity
    • Colour Temperature
    • Ioncident or Reflected Light
    • Exposure Readings
    • Light Management
    • Planning Ideas
    • Learn from experience
    • Adjusting light for digital or choosing film
    • Curves

    2. Understanding Sensitometry and the Zone System

    • Sensiometry
    • The Subject
    • Blackness of Image
    • Transmission
    • Opacity
    • Density
    • Scatter
    • Callier Coefficient
    • Characteristic Curve
    • The Zone System
    • Using the Zone System
    • Controlling Contrast
    • Equipment and Film
    • Exposing shadows
    • Processing Highlights

    3. Light Sources

    • Natural and Artificial Light Sources
    • Properties of Light Sources
    • Copy Lighting
    • Flash Photography
    • Electronic Flash (Manual, Computer, Dedicated)
    • Flash Synchronisation
    • Flash Problems (eg. Red eye)
    • Mixing Flash & Daylight

    4. Meters & Filters

    • Measuring light (centre weighted system, Spot reading meter)
    • Problems with different meters
    • Backlit Subjects
    • Filters

    5. Other Equipment for Lighting

    • Reflectors
    • Problems with Aluminised Reflectors
    • Reflector attachments
    • Diffusers
    • Tripods and Stands
    • Specialised Light Sources (Spots, Cyclorama lights, Part lights, Stroboscopic lights, Ring lights)
    • Backgrounds
    • Digital Cameras

    6. Contrast and Composition

    • Introduction
    • Subject Contrast
    • Lighting Contrast
    • Brightness Range
    • Exposure Compensation
    • Ways of Assessing Composition
    • Compensating for Reflected Glare
    • Compensating for Lens Flare

    7.  Studio Lighting

    • Portrait Studio Lighting
    • Working with studio lights
    • Creating lighting effects
    • Background lighting
    • Mixed lighting
    • The Basic studio
    • Additional lighting equipment
    • Special techniques (Fashion lighting, Butterfly lighting, Lighting still life, etc)

    8. On-Location Lighting

    • Outdoor lighting effects
    • Time of Day
    • Weather
    • Excessive outdoor light
    • Night photography
    • Underwater Photography
    • Creating Intense Colour
    • Rainforest Photography
    • Photographing Cars
    • Special Techniques (High speed, Intermittent capture, etc)
    • Lighting Plants
    • On location Photo Skills


    This course involves far more than just reading and answering questions. Below are some of the activities you will do as part of your study:

    • Investigate different film types with respect to suitability for different light conditions
    • Set up and use a "Computation Folder"
    • Shoot film of different subjects under a variety of light conditions
    • Apply the zone system to different situations
    • Analyse the lighting effects in various photos
    • Research the characteristics and uses of different types of equipment.

    The Quality and Quantity of Light are Important

    As a general rule, the larger the light source, the softer the light produced.  The same is true in reverse.  

    Glamour photography requires a soft diffuse light.  This is generally very flattering for the face and body. Light can be bounced from reflectors, walls, ceilings or by using a light umbrella.  The light can also be diffused by pushing it through translucent material or a soft box.  Remember a larger surface area of reflector or cloth, the softer the light quality. If you don't have access to any of these things you can try putting a white paper bag, over your flash.  Diffusion filters can also be fitted to the lens to soften the image further.  For example, if you are shooting nudes, always use a diffused light source for a better shot.    

    Quality of light
    The quality of light can vary in several ways

    • The mix of colours in the light may vary
    • The evenness of light can vary across an image

    White light is light energy that comes from a range of wave-lengths across the spectrum. One way of looking at it is that white light is made up of all the colours of a rainbow mixed together (e.g. blue, green, red, yellow, etc). In some situations (e.g. indoors or under water) you may encounter plenty of light, but the mix of wavelengths might not be normal; and that can change how a photograph looks.

    High or Low Key Light
    Low key lighting is light that is subdued or low in intensity. It is ideal for abstract and figure studies where shape and tone are more important than the person being easily identifiable. With low-key lighting a spotlight or rim light can be added to create a dramatic, high contrast effect. High key lighting is the opposite of this.

    Quantity of light
    This refers to the ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ nature of the light. A good key to know what type of light is hard or which is soft is to look at the shadows cast. For example the sun is a huge light source, and at midday with no clouds, it produces hard shadows with hard edges to them.  The same occurs in a hot dry climate with low levels of humidity in the air - as in desert areas and dry areas of Australia. The opposite is a rainy cloud filled day; the shadows on such a day are soft with edges hardly visible. The atmosphere in these conditions is more humid too, with more water particles for the light to shine through before hitting the subject.
    So a bare bulb is equivalent to midday sun and a soft box more like a cloudy day; both have different qualities of light.