A Glossary of Lighting Phrases Utilized in Pictures


When beginning out in images, you might be bombarded with phrases, definitions, and an entire new universe of issues you should know as a photographer. Typically the definitions are complicated at greatest, seemingly conflicting at worst. Relating to lighting, there’s an enormous record of phrases and jargon that you want to know. Listed here are a number of the frequent ones with easy definitions and explanations.


Mild that’s current in a scene, usually originating from the Solar or a man-made mild supply similar to a bulb. Ambient mild is managed utilizing shutter pace and aperture. When mixing ambient with flash, photographers resort to controlling ambient with shutter pace because it permits to maintain the preselected depth of subject. As a rule photographers shoot large open in ambient mild conditions, so the shutter pace is the one choice(assuming ISO is already excessive).


The sunshine that’s generated by an electrical flash tube or an unnatural supply. Normally comes from a flash and is commonly what you’ll be able to management. Though mild bulbs in an occasion venue are synthetic mild, most photographers regard them as ambient if there is no such thing as a management over them.


A light-weight that comes from behind a topic. A backlight will increase background separation because it highlights the sides of your topic. An efficient backlight is commonly arduous however not too vivid.

Broad Mild

A portrait lighting sample the place the entire face is lit evenly. The sunshine path is hitting the cheekbone.


The reflection you see within the eyes of the mannequin. A sq. mild supply will produce a sq. catchlight, a spherical one-round.


When highlights, generally pores and skin elements, are overexposed to the purpose of no return. Will be fastened by dialing the ability down or speaking to the make-up artist about it.


Space of the nostril with the nostrils. It’s usually good to maintain it darker than the nostril bridge.

Steady Lighting

Mild supply that has fixed output over time e.g. a tungsten 3200W mild. Generally utilized in video. Strobes characteristic a excessive however not fixed output of sunshine.


The distinction between highlights and shadows in a picture.


Color temperature blue gel: used to chill the sunshine down.


Color temperature orange gel: used to heat it up.


Mild that hits the topic from a large household of angles.


The measure of how briskly mild loses energy over distance. Follows the inverse sq. regulation for small mild sources.


Generally a big subtle mild supply used to deliver out shadow element and scale back distinction.


A studio accent used to chop mild or introduce detrimental fill.


A bit of semi-transparent plastic that can coloration the sunshine. Don’t use gels with modeling lamps as they soften.


(1) An optical attachment used to create exact mild patterns, or (2) a flag (or diffusion cloth) with holes that’s used to solid uneven natural-looking shadows.


The transition between spotlight and shadow. A clean gradient suggests subtle mild, a tough gradient suggests arduous mild.

Information Quantity

A amount describing what f-stop or distance to make use of if one of many two is thought. Information quantity is f/cease multiplied by distance. Most on-camera flash producers give these in manuals.

Arduous Mild

Mild with sharp shadow edges and little to no gradient. It’s outlined solely by shadow edges, not distinction or scene.


A scene that’s largely vivid or white. Generally utilized in headshot images and might be carried out with minimal gear.



A part of the floor that’s considerably brighter than the remainder. Generally used with softboxes which have a hotspot within the middle.


A light-weight supply that’s producing comparatively heat mild by burning a filament. These mild sources are sometimes inefficient and at present are not often utilized in skilled functions.

Inverse Sq. Regulation

Relationship between mild brightness and distance. Mild depth/brightness will lower in inverse proportion to the sq. of the space.

Key Mild

The brightest mild on the topic.


A light-weight used to spotlight the contour of the topic and separate it from the background- generally positioned behind it.

Lighting Ratio

The publicity ratio between shadow and spotlight. A excessive lighting ratio means lots of distinction whereas a low one means no distinction.


Picture that’s largely darkish/shadow. In contrast to high-key, the important thing mild can be very outstanding right here whereas the whole lot else will fall into shadow. A lot tougher to do in comparison with high-key because it requires extra nuanced mild shaping.



The world between shadow and spotlight. A big penumbra means clean gradient, a small one means arduous mild and no gradient.

High quality of Mild

Described by way of 4 issues: arduous, smooth, subtle, specular. Some regard top quality of sunshine to be one thing smooth, however this places arduous mild in jeopardy therefore I counsel in opposition to this model of the definition.

Ring flash

A particular flash that mounts across the lens and creates even mild that doesn’t solid seen shadows.


A shadow that seems due to the change within the form of the item (e.g a darkish fringe of a dice)

Shadow edges

Fancy mild nerds will name this penumbra. See above.

Quick mild

A portrait lighting approach the place the entrance of the face is vivid whereas the cheeks stay darkish. The sunshine path is hitting the face.

Tender Shadow

A shadow that has lengthy graduated transitions from spotlight to shadow. The time period ‘shadow edges’ doesn’t virtually apply as they’re extraordinarily giant and arduous to pinpoint.


The angle at which the sunshine spreads over the world. A spill kill or a grid will scale back the sunshine unfold (spill) to a smaller angle (e.g. 5 deg)

Thrown Shadow

A shadow that’s solid by an object to a distinct floor, e.g a shadow on the desk from a cup.

Closing Ideas

These are just a few beginning factors in studying mild. Naturally, there are much more area of interest phrases. But, simply figuring out the definitions gained’t allow you to grasp mild. Training with these concepts in thoughts will. For instance, a attainable activity may very well be to create a brief after which broad lighting sample. One other check may very well be to create a tough, subtle mild. Sounds odd? Test the sunshine high quality definition once more.

Credit: Header picture: @ginte.studio, Make-up: @karinajemelyjanova, Styling: @nagyemesestylist, Mannequin: @mirinkoli, Company: @annelise_arieli @facemodelmanagementhungary, Retouch: @justlike_magic.


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