Photographer? Here’s How To Light Any Object

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When you’re taking pictures, it’s easy to get swept up in the moment and just point and shoot. Although it’s possible to achieve great results this way, more often than not, just by pausing for a second to consider the lighting of the subject, you can enhance your pictures significantly.

The way you light a subject depends on whether its surface is reflective, transparent or neutral. Here’s a quick guide on how to light each of these surfaces.


The problem with lighting reflective surfaces, such as a mirror, is that they reflect light away from themselves and onto another object. This means that the mirror will appear dark even though it may be covered in light. The way to make the mirror appear brighter is to light the object which the mirror is reflecting the light onto. This will cause the mirror to appear brighter as the mirror will be reflecting light from the bright object into the camera.

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In order to properly light a transparent surface, such as a glass bottle, you’ll need to light the area which is seen through the transparent surface. This may be the wall behind the glass bottle for example. Since many surfaces are not only transparent but reflective too, you’ll also need to use the technique above to light the transparent and reflective object properly.

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Neutral surfaces are ones which aren’t reflective or transparent – basically everything else. As long as the surface is neutral, you’ll be able to light it by shining light directly onto it. Since light won’t move through or reflect off of the neutral surface, you won’t need to worry about using either of the other two techniques above. Here’s a video from KINETEK which demonstrates the way to light the three types of objects: 

If you’re looking to try out your newfound lighting skills but don’t already have a camera then why not look into camera rental and lenses for hire, in London and elsewhere, on Fat Lama? Camera hire and lens hire is a great way to try before you buy, make a one-off project happen, or use a piece of kit that you don’t already own. Alternatively, if you own a camera we’ll help you find people who want to hire a camera in London and around the UK, so you can put your spare equipment to work!

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