Types of light

14th October 2019

Project 3, Exploring the effects of light has us thinking about the many different kinds of light that there are.

… Sunlight, moonlight, candle light, street light, flash light, light from a computer monitor or TV, car headlights, neon light, chemical snap light, etc… Through the day sunlight may change from bright direct light to diffused overcast light. Morning light has a different colour from light at noon and noon light is different again from evening light.

OCA Foundations in photography Course folder pg 79

I have decided to explore and research this further as ‘light’ is the fundamental being of making photographs and to know the subject can only aid my learning and skill development.

I like reading other peoples blogs and website texts on subjects. They usually, (hopefully) know about the topic they are discussing and have diagrams and photographs to help illustrate their text.

This is the first of the light articles that I have come across which explains more about the different types of light in photography from the website ehabphotography.com and the title of the page is, ‘What Are The Different Types Of Light In Photography?’ and is written by Amin Hashem.

The article tells us that these are types of light,

  • Different types of light Natural and artificial light
  • Intensity of Light of which there are three different types Luminous Flux and Intensity = Light Coming from a Source, Illuminance = Light Falling on a Surface= Incident light, Luminance = Light Reflected from a Surface
  • Quality of light Hard and soft light
  • Colour of light
  • Direction of light

Then I would presume for each different type you would have so many variables bouncing out at you, so it really is important to get grips with knowing light and how to manipulate it to your best advantage.

Understanding colour temperature from the website photography pro.com by Becki Robins

Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin. Different sources of light have different color temperatures. Incandescent or tungsten lights are warm. Candlelight is even warmer. The natural light on a cloudy day is cooler, while fluorescent light can give your photo a green cast.

Here’s a brief rundown of some of the most common lighting situations you might encounter and what the corresponding Kelvin number is:

  • Candlelight: 1900
  • Incandescent light: 2700
  • Sunrise/golden hour: 2800 to 3000
  • Halogen lamps: 3000
  • Moonlight: 4100
  • White LEDs: 4500
  • Mid-day: 5000 to 5500
  • Flash: 5500
  • Overcast/cloudy: 6500 to 7500
  • Shade: 8000
  • Heavy cloud cover: 9000 to 10000
  • Blue sky: 10000
Note that the cooler the light, the higher the number. The warmer the light, the lower the number.

Your brain automatically deals with color cast, so it’s not something you’ll notice unless you’re looking out for it. However, your camera isn’t as smart as you and often needs your help.

So the key element in photography is light because not only does it create the image but is defines the style and the feel of the picture. Hence us studying the photographers that use light to their own creative end, E.g Trent Parke and Martin Parr with their distinct lighting use.

Available light

Notes from: Edited by Stuart Andrews (2003), Light & Lighting. China: The Ilex Press Limited (pgs 12-13)

Notes taken from the book: Edited by Stuart Andrews (2003), Light & Lighting. China: The Ilex Press Limited

Incandescent light

Colour temperature – The orange cast of domestic tungsten lamps which the camera records far more than our eyes, needs white-balance adjustment.

Incandescent light is a tungsten lamp which shines by burning and it’s brightness depends on the degree of which the filament is heated.

Natural light

Sunlight can be any colour between white and red – weather conditions filter and reflect – clouds- fog – white haze – mist – dust – rain – snow – pollution also filter light differently.

Three things can happen to sunlight – diffused, absorbed which changes the colour – reflected from surfaces.

The sole source of natural light is the sun because even the light from the moon is a reflector of the sunlight as is the sky.

Different variables of sunlight include: direction, as the sun moves across the sky – time of day – season – latitude – different heights.

Camera variables include: angle of the camera – facing towards or away from the sun – light shining from one side.

Sunlight in a clear sky is the least complicated of natural light.

Twighlight – sun below the horizon it is the afterglow that lights the scene. It is a reflected light source.

Moonlight – reflects the sun very weakly. Needs long exposures.

Clouds create a variety of effects. They diffuse daylight and soften scenes and reduce shadows.

Rain and storms provide glistening surfaces, light levels are low. Captures natural colours more realistically in landscape E.g greens come out well on wet days.

Haze softens sunlight, weakens colours and helps with depth and perspective. It is the scattering of light by particles in the atmosphere. fine dust and pollution produce it. Density and wavelengths are affected.

Mist, fog and dust are thicker than haze, it is dense and the droplets of particles are so large that there is no selective scattering of wavelengths, just diffusion.

Snowscapes = brightness. fest snow is an almost perfect matt reflector which reflects sky colours intensely.

Available Light

Notes from: Edited by Stuart Andrews (2003), Light & Lighting. China: The Ilex Press Limited (pgs 102-105)

The above photograph with examples of window lighting has been taken from the article Window Lighting for Photographers: 5 Tips for Amazing Images from the website lightroompresets.com.

16th October 2019

Fluorescent Light

This is a common indoor lighting which look white but photograph green which also means the need for white-balance correction. Photographs will show a green cast and need to be corrected E.g supermarkets and offices.

These lights work by electric discharges which pass pass through vapour sealed in a glass tube, with a fluorescent coating on the inside of the tube.

Vapour discharge light

Vapour lamps give off greens, blues and yellows which look white to our eyes. This type of lighting is on the increase in public spaces and shops because they are good at lighting large spaces.

There are three types of vapour discharge light: (1) sodium – yellow cast = street lighting (2) Mercury – green/ green-blue cast = various settings (3) Multi-vapour – more balanced = sports stadiums

This comparison of domestic bulbs against daylight shows the spectra of light they emit, with incandescent (tungsten) and halogen producing the smoothest spectra of the artificial sources. From the website: neiloseman.com

Candle light


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