Photography 102: Lighting

Photography 102: Lighting

photography 102: lighting

For more photography how-tos, check out: Photography 101

I've really started to take an interest in improving my photography since around the time I posted my photography 101 post.

After reviewing the basics, next up on the list was lighting.

Previously, I was shooting on our dining room table. Every time I took a shot, I had to move the table close to the window, and hope to goodness I didn't get reflections in the images I was taking.

Grapefruit Cranberry Fizz

In the picture above, you can see me with my tripod, the pictures on the wall behind me, and the snow in our backyard. Avoiding reflection mission = fail.

It just wasn't working. So naturally, I came up with a plan.


I moved from the kitchen table, to a tall and skinny window in our living room. My setup is in the corner of the room, so I can use the walls around me to rest my "gear."

Note: the window does not have to have direct sunlight.

Dad's famous potato salad


Lighting diffusion is when you have a light (in my case, the sun), and you diffuse it with a sheer/see-through material, making the light shine through softer. Diffusion allows the light to surround the subject, making the shadows less harsh. Think of it this way: If there are clouds in front of the sun, you'll notice that there are fewer shadows and everything looks softer. Think of your diffusion panel as a cloud.

The Proof:

The images below have not gone through any post processing. The image on the left was shot with a diffusion panel. The image on the right was not. Can you see the harsh shadows in the right picture? Look at the purple cloth. Do you see it now? Also, do you notice the reflection on the yellow bowl? Notice how the reflection is softer in the left picture than in the right.

photo with and without diffuser


Getting Creative With Light Reflectors

Light reflection, or creating a "light bounce," is when you have an object opposite of your light source that bounces some of the light back onto the darker side of the image to fill in the shadows. You can purchase light reflectors at any camera store, but I'm too cheap creative for that. Instead, I've created some nifty, cost-effective light reflectors that fill the shadows of my images, without robbing the bank. I started off using white paper towel. It works pretty good, but always having to hold it while you're shooting can be a nuisance. Then, I moved on to using a white plate. Again, a total pain to hold while shooting.

I've since created a tin-foil lined binder

tin-foil-lined binder light reflector

… and my favorite: a piece of foam board with corner brackets stuck on with electrical tape. You can find foam board at any craft store.

foam board light reflector

Foam Board


The Proof:

The images below have not gone through any post processing. The image on the left was shot with a foam board light reflector to the right of the plate. The image on the right did not have a light reflector. Notice the softness of the yellow bowl, and the ingredients.

Photo with and without reflectors

Again, left with reflector and right without it. Look at the blue napkin and the details of the salad in the blue casserole dish. They are very small adjustments, but make a huge improvement overall.

photos with and without bounce

In this set below, I used the foam bounce for the left picture, and tin-foil bounce for the right. Very, very minor differences. All in all, I like the foam bounce better because it's sturdier, and covers more area. Plus, if I get it in some of my pictures, it's not the end of the world.

foam bounce vs. tin foil

I am by no means a professional, and continue to learn as I go along. I hoped you could find this info somewhat useful!

Do you use light diffusion or reflectors for your photography?

Are there certain products or inventions you swear by?


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