Mastery of lighting techniques is one of the most telling differences between a professional commercial photographer and a hobbyist. Doug Davis, Dallas commercial photographer and owner of D-Squared Studios, explains that lighting creates a specific mood or effect. Which type of lighting works best for your project? It depends, says Doug. The ideal lighting for a product image will most likely differ from the ideal lighting setup for, say, a lifestyle photography shoot.
Can you still get a good shot without making adjustments for lighting? Maybe for an informal photo session, but commercial photo shoots–even those that take place outdoors–almost always require some manipulation of lighting and shadows.
When the subject of the shot is positioned between the camera and the light source, the image is said to be back lit. It’s a tricky technique because it requires the photographer to adjust the the back light to be less bright than the fill light. Otherwise, there is no distinction between the subject and its surroundings. It also can be adjusted to create a soft halo effect or add atmospheric perspective, making it ideal for lifestyle photography and creative portraiture.
If you envision an image in which a key feature or subject is highlighted, we use spot lighting. This technique creates a dramatic focal point that makes it popular in product photography. Doug uses spot lighting to play up shadows and contrasts, which also looks striking in images of architectural details.
When it’s not feasible to shoot a scene outdoors or onsite, we can use artificial lighting to duplicate practically any type of atmosphere or effect. Suppose we’re photographing various dishes for a menu at a new Italian restaurant. We need a shot of the signature pasta dish, but the windowless dining room is lit only by romantic candlelight. We certainly don’t want to photograph a plate of spaghetti outdoors on the sidewalk, so our best option is to bring in artificial lighting. Because we can control all aspects of artificial lighting, its versatility can be applied to all types of photography, including food photography.
The most difficult images are those that require several lighting styles within the same scene. Although Photoshop can be used to recreate some of these effects, it’s worth noting that Photoshop and other professional photo editing programs are complicated. Unless you have special training and experience with photo-editing software, you may find it difficult to achieve the desired effects. It’s more practical and less time-consuming to partner with a photographer who has proven lighting skills.
About D2 Studios and Doug Davis: Doug Davis, a creative commercial photographer and videographer in Dallas, TX, offers product, food, portrait, and lifestyle photography. To learn more about D2 Studios, which is located in Deep Ellum, or to schedule a consultation with Doug, contact us at 214.746.6336.