Understanding Light: A Challenge for You!

Last week, I wrote about how it’s an important skill for photographers to be able to figure out lights. If you don’t click, this is a succinct summary:

Understand [the light] and put that knowledge to practice, your own photography skills will improve by leaps and bounds, regardless of whether you’re a natural light photographer or studio photographer or somewhere in between.

It’s always a good practice, when you look at portraits, to take a moment and reflect on the lighting. If it’s outdoor, are the shadows crisp and harsh? Does that work for this image, or would it have been better to shoot at a different time of the day? Is the person positioned to best take advantage of the natural light?

And with artificial lights, whether it’s by table lamps or by strobes: is it a good placement of the lights? Was a diffuser of some kind used or is it a bare flash? Are the shadows flattering? What would you have done differently? Increased or decreased the power?

This is a self portrait from a few months ago.

by Zombie Photography
  1. How was this lit?
  2. How would you change the lighting? How do you think this image could be improved?

Let me know what you think in the comments!



  1. Two lights or a light + reflector.
    Might’ve added a hair light so the top of the head has dome separation from the background.

  2. I thought I wrote notes on my light settings (I usually do) but can’t find them.

    These were shot through umbrellas – I almost always use umbrellas to diffuse my flashes, so that’s a safe bet. Judging by the picture, the flash on camera-right was about shoulder height, maybe a little lower(see how the arm’s a bit brighter than the face?) and slightly behind.

    The second flash is about the same height, and slightly to the front.

    I agree, a hair light would’ve been nice for a bit more definition and separation. Unfortunately, my 3rd flash’s foot is broken. I need to get superglue and try repair it. Fingers crossed!

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