How do I use dramatic lighting in photography?


How do I use dramatic lighting in photography?
How do I use dramatic lighting in photography?
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The result of your work directly depends on how well you know how to use lighting. It is the lighting that helps you create the look you want, the style of the photo, the character of the subject, its mood, and the atmosphere. To do this we need to master the skills of lighting installation, technique adjustment, and of course the final editing of the photo as a result of the shooting. To do that you can use any editor you are comfortable with, but if you are wondering what Adobe Lightroom free alternatives are the best, read about them on Skylum`s blog.

Let’s understand in more detail what is dramatic lighting

You can create dramatic lighting in many different ways. You have to learn how to balance the light and shadows to create the contrast you want.

Let’s briefly go over it with an example. You can create a strong contrast by using only one light mapped in the picture by the harsh lighting. Also, using a narrow beam gives a dramatic effect. Putting the light at different angles, or increasing the amount of light, will soften the shadows and make them less dramatic. To work outdoors and create dramatic photography in cloudy weather don’t forget to take extra equipment to shoot. In such weather, the sunlight from behind the clouds spreads evenly over all surfaces, so there are almost no shadows, and you will need to install additional lighting. It is also possible to make an impressive portrait near a window in such weather. This is because the directional light from the window creates deep shadows on the opposite side of the subject’s face.

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The perception of dramatic light by our eyes and camera lens

Do the camera and the eye perceive the image in the same way? Let me say right off the bat – no! The important thing to say about cameras is this:

  • In order to replicate as closely as possible what we see, we must of course use a digital camera, which is due to modern technological capabilities. The result depends on the sensitivity of the sensor to light and the ISO setting. To get the right result, use a light meter and exposure. They will help to more accurately recreate what we see with our eyes.
  • A film camera won’t be able to completely replicate what we see with our eyes. This is because of its lesser technical ability and narrow dynamic range. To put it simply, the camera will not recreate details in shadows and highlights. That is why it is recommended not to shoot in low light. You must realize that the result of the picture will be very different from what you see with your own eyes.

The type of dramatic light

By and large, a specialist who has mastered the craft of photography can make any light dramatic. How to do it:

  • Experiment with exposure parameters and the pose of your subject. If you do it right, you’ll be pleased with the result when you use soft light.
  • Also, don’t forget the rim light, the result can be fantastic for adding drama.
  • To create deep shadows in the photo, which will give in addition to the mystery of the photo, use hard light. This method is the most popular.
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Do not forget about artificial light and light modifiers. A modifier will dim the main light, limiting its spread. Increasing the fill light increases the dramatic effect in the photo.

Do not exploit the second light to illuminate the composition, with such actions the dramatic effect in the photo will be lost or reduced to a minimum.

How to use dramatic lighting at home? 

This task can be handled both by an experienced professional who has mastered the skill of photography and by a person who wants to make a dramatic photo for her social networking page on her own. The latter, of course, will be more difficult.

In order to realize the idea at home of course you need to be able to see the conditions under which you can do it. This requires a favorable light, and it is desirable the possibility of its regulation (in this you can even help the curtain on the window). Experimenting at home, and you are sure to quickly master this style, and learn how to work with contrasts. For example, you can alternately use one window and one door as a source of light. In each case, the light will spread differently, giving you the opportunity to enhance or reduce the effect depending on what you need. Use the flash and control it. Take a test shot every time, because the flash can make a big difference in the style of your photo. Changing the pose of the subject will allow you to create a variety of shadows in the photo. To control the shadows, use an LED lamp that almost every home has.

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A final word about dramatic light

As mentioned above, this is a task that can be handled by both experienced photographers and non-photographer. The main thing is to understand what kind of result you want to get, and how to use the lighting and position the subject correctly. You can globally change the style or level of drama, using hard or soft light. When photographing children and conceiving a dramatic style, it’s better to use soft light so that the photo doesn’t turn out overly moody. When photographing mountains, for example, it is better to use hard light and appropriate camera settings.

Of course, you shouldn`t forget about literate photo post-processing. In this step, before getting the result, you can do it at any convenient for your photo editor. Also, if you are interested in the best Adobe Lightroom free alternatives, read more about them on Skylum`s blog.


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