Finding the Light, Part 6: Using Creative Light Sources

One of the most important factors in a good photo is lighting. You can have the perfect settings, great exposure, and even knockout composition, but if you don’t have good lighting, your image will fall flat. In this new series, Finding the Light, we are going to be talking about how to find and work with all types of lighting. Our goal is to help you understand how to work with all kinds of light, and how to use the light you have to create powerful, standout images. This is Part 6, and today we are concluding our series with a discussion on how to use creative light sources. If you’re just joining us, you can follow along in our series here:

Part 1: Finding the Light
Part 2: Using Shadows for Dramatic Portraits
Part 3: Shooting the Golden Hour
Part 4: How to Shoot in Harsh Light
Part 5: 3 Ways to Use Window Light
Part 6: Creative Light Sources

ISO 1000, f/2.2, 1/200
ISO 1000, f/2.2, 1/200

I mentioned last week that I learned photography within the walls of my own house, so I have become quite accustomed to making any and all available light sources work for me. The reality is, sometimes we don’t have ideal lighting available to us. Don’t let this stop you! You can get awesome photos just by getting creative with how and where you find your light! For example, you thought the headlights on your car were just for safe driving, didn’t you? Think again! They were the single light source for the image above. Light is everywhere. But, as I’ve said several times in this series, we must change the way we look for it. I love to think outside the box and search for creative light sources. If you want photos that are far from ordinary, one idea is to look for light in places that aren’t ordinary.

Ready to Start Saving Time in Lightroom? You Won’t Want to Miss This FREE Webinar!
mon-zack green

What to Look For

Are you wondering what you should be looking for? It’s really not that technical when you get down to it. The answer is simply… LIGHT. Watch for light anywhere, at any time, in any place. I would have never thought to take a photo of my daughter standing in the headlights until I began taking the time to notice light everywhere I went. Go outside at night and observe where light falls. You can even do this in your own front yard! Does light spill into the darkness through your windows? What about a porch light, or street lights? Take the time to observe light in places you hadn’t noticed before. There’s even light inside of your refrigerator!

ISO 1000, f/2.5, 1/160
ISO 1000, f/2.5, 1/160

You can get awesome photos just by getting creative with how and where you find your light!

Walk around your house and make note of all of the things that emit some sort of light. (Think beyond lamps and overhead light fixtures). Do you have candles? Flashlights? Electronics? How might you incorporate these for out-of-the-box photographs? When we begin looking for it, we will see that light is everywhere. It’s up to us how we will use it.

And the really exciting part? There is no “one way” to do it.

ISO 16000, f/2.2, 1/125
ISO 16000, f/2.2, 1/125

Tips for Shooting with Alternative Lighting

When you’re working with alternative lighting, pay attention to how the light falls onto your subject, and position them and the light source so that you have the desired outcome, just as you would in any other lighting situation. With creative light sources, chances are your light is coming from a single, and usually smaller, source. This can present some challenges, but there are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure you end up with great photos:

  • Use a wide aperture to let in more light
  • Raise your ISO to increase your camera’s sensitivity to the available light
  • Spot meter on your subject’s skin for accurate exposure

What I love most about different variations of light is that the lighting doesn’t have to be “perfect” to make a great photo. It truly is all about how you see it, and how you use it. I have loved talking over some of my favorite ways to “Find the Light” in this series, and we hope you have been inspired to get out there and think about light in new ways!  And if you are just now joining us, make sure you check out the rest of the series here:

Part 1: Finding the Light
Part 2: Using Shadows for Dramatic Portraits
Part 3: Shooting the Golden Hour
Part 4: How to Shoot in Harsh Light
Part 5: 3 Ways to Use Window Light
Part 6: Creative Light Sources

How have you been challenged to think about light differently? Let us know in the comments!! We love to hear from you!