Top 5 Tips: Photography Lighting Basics for Any Location

photography lighting basics

Knowing photography lighting basics to light your subject, regardless of the situation you are in, can often be challenging. From determining what your flash settings should be, to if you should use a reflector, to the proper placement of your subject in relation to the light, there are numerous items to think about. Add a wedding day timeline into the mix, and you can be left feeling quite overwhelmed. How can you work with light in a way that helps you create the images you desire?

Photography Lighting Basics

Here at ShootDotEdit, we provide wedding photo edits for professional photographers. We also partner with industry leaders to bring you valuable information you can use for your business and photography. In our Online Training: How I Lit the Shot: Lighting Tips from Real Wedding Photos, Brett Florens shared his insights on how he uses lighting during every shoot. Here are the top 5 tips for lighting in any location from Brett’s Online Training.

1. Identify Available Light

When you are on location, one of the first things to do is identify the available light. If you are indoors, what type of lighting is available? If you are outdoors, what time of day is it and can you use natural light? During the day, are you working with harsh or soft lighting? For night shoots, is there available street lights or is there any light coming from the sky? When you determine what light is available in your location, you can then decide if you can work with it or if you need assistance.

wedding photography in the desert with a camel

Image by Brett Florens

Related: 4 Photography Lighting Tips for Shooting with Backlight

2. Bring a Reflector

Sometimes, the available or natural light is not enough to help you create the images you desire. To help manipulate available light, and avoid bad lighting photos, bring along a reflector. A reflector helps you bounce light onto your subject, especially when there is unfavorable lighting in your location.


When shooting indoors, you can work with window lighting or other available light to bounce light from the wall onto your couple. As you shoot outdoors, you can reflect the light onto your couple from surrounding buildings, walls, or ground. With a reflector, you can create studio quality lighting in any shooting situation.

During some parts of the wedding day, you may not want to use a reflector (as you are running around capturing fast moments). A reflector is best used while you have more time, especially during the bridal or couple portraits, or even during the family formals.

3. Utilize a Scrim

Other photography lighting basics and tools you can use to manipulate light include a scrim, which assists you in diffusing the light that shines on your couple. There are various shapes and sizes for scrims, and it can be easily added with the gear you bring on a shoot. Using a scrim is helpful when you shoot in harsh or intense light with your couple because it helps them to keep their eyes open and not squint. A scrim also allows you to avoid blowing out their features and creates a flattering look for your couple.

4. Use Speedlights for Dark Locations

Some of your wedding shoots will be during the day, and others will happen as it gets dark. When the sun goes down, you can shoot at a higher ISO to capture the images you desire. This is when it can be necessary to create artificial lighting. Brett suggests using your speedlight when you go into a lower light situation. Instead of using your speedlight as a flash, you can adjust the settings and use it as an autofocus device.


Learn Pro Lighting Techniques

When you fire the trigger, your flash will not fire. It will use the infrared beam to focus in the dark. With so many people moving, especially during the reception, you want to make sure your focus is on point. To avoid bad lighting photography, use the speedlight to focus in low light conditions and capture the important images of the day.

Related: How to Shoot in Harsh Light – discover the techniques here!

5. Practice Lighting Techniques

There are always new techniques for you to use during your shoots, and it takes time to adjust to new skills. Rather than practicing your skills during the wedding day, schedule time to practice outside of a professional shoot. Get to know your camera better, and what its capabilities are. If you are unsure of how high the ISO can go, shoot at different ISOs until you get to the maximum of your camera. Then, go back and look at the photos you shot and decide what ISO works best for your camera (especially in low light situations). The more you practice, the easier it will be to understand how to make good lighting for pictures.

Mastering photography lighting basics can help elevate the quality of your images and allow you to shoot in any location. Since wedding photography lighting techniques are constantly changing, what else can you do to stay up-to-date with your skills? Download The Lighting Guide for Wedding Photographers, where Roberto Valenzuela shares key lighting scenarios from his #1 bestseller book, Picture Perfect Lighting. Click the banner below to grab it today and get started on additional ways to use light for your images!

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