Light and Photography

Photography is a fun and rewarding hobby, but taking high-quality photos is often a difficult and time-consuming task. Even after taking your time and positioning the shot accurately, you still may not get the results you so desperately want.

If you’re looking to start improving your photographic technique, focusing on your use of light is the best place to start. Mike Lester, whose photography business has been ranked no.1 in the UK by Freeindex, has made his living from producing the best quality photographs for his clients, and gives his top tips on how to utilise light in photography.

Indoor and studio photos

When taking photographs indoors, precision and planning is key. Mike has some sage advice for those wondering what products to buy when it comes to lighting: “My primary lighting is the Bowens Gemini Studio flash head. This consists of a 250W Halostar modelling light and a 500W Flash tube, The output from both can be controlled separately or linked. The benefits of the system are that multiple units can be used to create different lighting ‘moods’. Each unit can be adjusted to output at any point over a 6 stop range.

In addition, each can be fitted with a range of reflectors or diffusers to modify the light. Typically, for studio use, I’ll use Softboxes to diffuse the light, Snoots and Honeycombs to pick out specific areas and a range of reflectors to manage the wider effect.”

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An example of one of Mike’s studio photographs.

Outdoor photography

Taking photographs outdoors can be just as complex a process as taking photographs in a studio. Mike states the importance of choosing your moment and planning on what effect you’d like your photo to have: “Natural light is extremely variable, ranging from bright, harsh sun with dark shadows, to low contrast, dull lighting. Each has it’s benefits and can be used to create different moods.

If you’re photographing friends or family on bright sunny days, you’ve probably been told that you should always shoot with the sun behind you and with the subject facing the light. This has some very unpleasant effects, including squinting, being too bright and harsh shadows. To overcome this, turn your subject round so that they have the light behind them. Use your camera’s onboard flash to fill in the shadows and ‘balance’ the brightness of the rear lighting. Because they’re not having to squint into the sun, your subject’s expression will appear more relaxed and natural.”

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An example of one of Mike’s outdoor photographs.

Photos and contributions: Mike Lester. You can find out more about Mike and his business at

Words: Neil Kennedy, specialist in lighting and head of sales and marketing at LampShopOnline, you can find out more

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Published 2014/08/21

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