6th Edition

Light — Science & Magic An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

    336 Pages 267 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    336 Pages 267 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Photographic lighting is a topic that will never go out of style, no matter how sophisticated cameras and other technology get. Even with the most high-tech gear, photographers still need to put a lot of thought and vision into lighting their photographs in order to get great results. Mastering this key skill has the power to dramatically and quickly improve your photographs as well as your efficiency.

    Light—Science & Magic provides you with a comprehensive theory of the nature and principles of light, with examples and instructions for practical application. Featuring photographs, diagrams, and step-by-step instructions, this book speaks to photographers of varying levels. It provides invaluable information on how to light the most difficult subjects, such as surfaces, metal, glass, liquids, extremes (black-on-black and white-on-white), and portraits.

    This new edition includes:

    • Expanded chapters on portraiture and lighting equipment

    • Chapters on necessary equipment when working on location versus in the studio

    • An updated appendix of reliable photo gear sources

    • Over 100 new photographs and informational sidebars

    • Updated information about advances in flash equipment, LED panels, and fluorescent lights

    Lighting styles will evolve, but the science of light will always remain the same. Once photographers understand the basic physics of lighting (without having to become physicists), they can apply that knowledge to a broad range of photographic styles.

    Table of Contents



    Chapter 1 – How to Learn lighting

    Lighting Is the Language of Photography

    What Are the "Principles?" Why Are the Principles Important?

    How Did We Choose the Examples for This Book?

    To Do or Not to Do?What Kind of Camera Do I Need?A Word of Caution

    What Lighting Equipment Do I Need?What Else Do I Need to Know to Use This Book?

    What Is the Magic Part of This Book?

    Chapter 2 – Light: The Raw Material of Photography

    What is light?

    How Photographers Describe Light




    "Light" Versus "Lighting"

    How the Subject Affects Lighting


    "Direct" Versus "Diffuse" Transmission


    Chapter 3 – The Management of Reflection and the Family of Angles

    Types of Reflections

    Diffuse Reflections

    The Inverse Square LawDirect Reflections

    The Family of AnglesPolarized Direct Reflection

    Is It Polarized Reflection or Ordinary Direct Reflection?Turning Ordinary Direct Reflection into Polarized Reflection

    Applying the Theory

    Chapter 4 – Surface Appearances

    The Photographer as an Editor

    Capitalizing on Diffuse ReflectionsThe Angle of Light

    The Success and Failure of the General RuleThe Distance of LightDoing the Impossible

    Using Diffuse Reflection and Shadow to Reveal Texture

    Capitalizing on Direct ReflectionComplex Surfaces

    Chapter 5 – Revealing Shape and Contour

    Depth Clues

    Perspective Distortion

    Distortion as a Clue to Depth

    Manipulating Distortion

    Total Variation

    The Size of the Light

    Large Lights Versus Small Lights

    Distance from the Subject

    The Direction of the Light

    Light on the Side

    Light Above the Subject

    Fill Light

    Adding Depth to the Background

    How Much Total Variation is Ideal?

    Photographing Cylinders: Increasing Total Variation

    The Glossy Box

    Use a Dark- to Medium-toned Background

    Eliminate Direct Reflection from the Box Top

    Eliminate Direct Reflection From the Box Top

    Move the Light Source Toward the Camera

    Raise or Lower the Camera

    Use Falloff

    Eliminate Direct Reflection from the Box’s Sides

    Put a Black Card on the Tabletop Tip the Box

    Use a Longer Lens

    Finish with Other Resources

    Try a Polarizer

    Use Dulling Spray

    Use Direct Reflection

    Chapter 6 – Metal

    Flat Metal

    Bright or Dark

    Finding the Family of Angles

    Position a White Target Where You Think the Family of Angles Will Be

    Place a Test Light at the Camera Lens

    Aim the Test Light

    Study the Position and Shape of the Area Marked on the Test Surface

    Lighting the MetalKeeping the Metal BrightWhat is a "Normal" Exposure for Metal?Keeping the Metal Dark

    The Elegant Compromise

    Controlling the Effective Size of the Light

    Keeping the Metal Square

    Use a View Camera or Perspective Control LensAim the Camera Through a Hole in the Light Source

    Photograph the Metal at an AngleRetouch the Reflection

    Metal Boxes

    A Light BackgroundA Transparent BackgroundA Glossy Background

    Round Metal


    Keeping the Light Off the CameraUsing a Tent

    Other Resources

    Polarizing FiltersBlack MagicDulling Spray

    Where Else Do These Techniques Apply?


    Chapter 7 – The Case of the Disappearing Glass



    Two Attractive Opposites

    Bright-field Lighting

    Choose the Background

    Position the Light

    Position the Camera

    Position the Subject and Focus the Camera

    Shoot the Picture

    Dark-field Lighting

    Set Up a Large Light Source

    Position the Camera

    Position the Subject and Focus the Camera

    Shoot the Picture

    The Best of Both Worlds

    Some Finishing Touches

    Defining the Surface of Glassware

    Illuminating the Background

    Minimizing the Horizon

    Stopping Flare

    Eliminating Extraneous Reflections

    Complications from Nonglass Subjects

    Liquids in Glass

    Liquids as a Lens

    Keeping True Color

    Secondary Opaque Subjects

    Recognizing the Principal Subject


    Chapter 8 – Making Portraits

    The Single-light Portrait Setup

    The Basic Setup

    Light Size

    Skin Texture

    Where to Put the Main Light

    The Key Triangle

    Key Triangle Too Large: Main Light Too Near the Camera

    Key Triangle Too Low: Main Light Too High

    Key Triangle Too Narrow: Main Light Too Far to Side

    Left Side? Right Side?

    Broad Lighting or Short Lighting?


    Additional Lights

    Fill Lights

    Reflector Cards as Fill Lights

    Background Lights

    Hair Lights


    Rim Lights

    Mood and Key

    Low-key Lighting

    High-key Lighting

    Staying in Key

    Dark Skin

    The Unfocused Spot

    More Than One Person

    Using Colored Gels

    Chapter 9 – The Extremes

    The Characteristic Curve

    The Perfect "Curve"

    A "Bad" Camera



    Using Every Resource


    Exposing White-on-White Scenes

    Lighting White-on-White Scenes

    Subject and Background

    Using an Opaque White Background

    Light the Subject From Above

    Use a Gobo Above the Subject

    Add Dimension

    Using a Translucent White Background

    Using a Mirror Background

    In Any Case, Keep the Background Small


    Exposing Black-on-Black Scenes

    Lighting Black-on-Black Scenes

    Subject and Background

    Using an Opaque Black Background

    Using a Glossy Black Surface

    Keeping the Subject Away from the Background


    Preventing Problems


    CurvesNew Principles


    Chapter 10 – Working on Location

    The Lights We Use

    Heavy-Duty Portable Strobes

    "Hot Shoe" Flashes

    LED Panels

    Getting the Exposure Right

    Letting Your Flash Do the Figuring

    Using a Meter

    Meters and LEDs

    Getting More Light

    Multiple, or "Ganged" Flashes

    Battery Packs

    Flash Extenders

    Getting Better-quality Light

    The Problems

    Take It Off

    Bouncing From Hard to Soft

    The Omni-Bounce – A Big Help for a Little Money

    "Raccoon Eyes"

    Feathering Your Light

    Forcing the Shadow

    Lights of Different Colors

    Why Is the Color of the Light Important?



    Nonstandard Light Sources

    Do the Colors Mix?

    The Remedies

    Correcting Mixed Colors

    Correcting Unmixed Colors

    Filtering Daylight

    Correcting Errors in Reproduction

    Lights of Different Duration

    Different Approaches

    Other Useful Gear

    Chapter 11 – Setting Up Your First Studio

    Lights: An Early Issue

    Getting Your Lights Right

    What Kind of Lights?


    Continuous Lights

    How Many Lights?

    Light Stands


    Light Modifiers – Which Do I Need?



    Snoots, Grids and Barn Doors

    Gobos and Flags


    Computers and Associated Gear

    Miscellaneous Equipment

    What About Space?

    Appendix: Reliable Suppliers



    Fil Hunter was a highly respected commercial photographer specializing in still life and special effects photographs for advertising and editorial illustration. During a career spanning over three decades, he worked for such clients as America Online (AOL), US News, Time-Life Books, Life Magazine (27 covers), the National Science Foundation, and National Geographic. He taught photography at university level and served as technical consultant on a number of photographic publications. Mr. Hunter won the Virginia Professional Photographer’s Grand Photographic Award three times. He co-authored Focus on Lighting Photos with Robin Reid.

    Steven Biver has over 20 years of experience as a commercial photographer specializing in portraits, still life, photomontage, and digital manipulation. His client list includes Johnson & Johnson, USDA, William & Mary College, Condé Nast, and IBM. He has been honored with awards from Communication Arts, Graphis, HOW Magazine, and Adobe, who have also included his work on a Photoshop ‘extras’ disc to inspire other photographers. He is also the co-author of FACES: Photography and the Art of Portraiture.

    Paul Fuqua has worked as an editorial and wildlife photographer for more than 35 years. He started his own production company in 1970 and is dedicated to teaching through the use of visuals. Paul has written and produced educational and training material in a variety of fields including law, public safety, history, science, and the environment. For the last 10 years he has produced educational material dealing with the natural sciences and the need for global habitat stewardship. Paul is also a co-author of FACES: Photography and the Art of Portraiture.

    Robin Reid has been a professional photographer for over 30 years. She has worked for many federal courts (US Supreme Court, US Tax Court, and US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and others), as well as Domino’s Pizza, Time-Life Books, McGraw-Hill, American Management Corporation, Diabetes Forecast, and Heckler & Koch. Ms. Reid has won various awards from Virginia Professional Photographers Association, including Best Portrait of a Child. She taught both Studio Portraiture and Tools of Photography classes for the Art League of Alexandria for many years. She co-authored Focus on Lighting Photos with Fil Hunter.