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This post was most recently updated on November 7th, 2021

Are you looking for new ways to light your photography and are wondering about front lighting? Perhaps you have heard about front lighting and want to know how to use it? Or maybe you are new to photography and looking to find out more? Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you!

We know how difficult it can be to find out information about photography, especially if you are new to the world of photography and lighting. It can be overwhelming, with so many different phrases, and it seems that no one can give you a straight answer. Before you know it, you are stressed and confused with poorly lit photos.

Well, no more! Today we are here to get you the answers you need. Keep reading to find out what front lighting is and how to use it! Keep reading to transform your photography into well-lit wonders.

What Is Front Lighting?

Let’s get straight into it! When we talk about front, back, or side lighting, we are talking about your main source of light and the direction it is coming from. So, for front lighting, your main source of light is in front of your subject. This light either comes from behind the camera or the camera itself, through a built-in flash or an on-camera flash.

Other types of lighting, back, and side lighting, will refer to the light coming from behind the subject or to the side, respectively. Finding the best lighting for your photograph can take some time, so don’t be disheartened if your first few photographs aren’t the best lighting-wise.

Be sure to allow plenty of time to experiment with lighting and find the best lighting for your subject. Remember, this can be fun too, so enjoy the process!

So why do we use front lighting? Well, it has some major benefits! Frontal lighting allows you to illuminate your subject, making metering fairly easy evenly! It’s not a difficult setup to create either, although we have more information on that coming up shortly! You can expect a nice and even brightness for the whole image with front lighting, with very little shadows or darkness.

Although, it’s worth noting that front lighting can flatten a subject. Any shadows created by the lighting are now behind the subject and often out of the camera’s view. These shadows would usually give shape and form to a subject and add a dramatic look to the image. Without them, your subject’s shape can be a little ambiguous and lack drama. These shots can go from interesting to like a record shot in no time at all!

While that can put many photographers off, it doesn’t mean that we should avoid front lighting altogether. In some cases, front lighting can be extremely useful. If you think it’s the best way to get even lighting for your photograph, then, by all means, use front lighting! Many photographers do and use it to their advantage, so why not give it a go yourself?

Now that we have covered what front lighting is, let’s move on and look at how you can use it!

How To Use Front Lighting?

When using front lighting, a good tip to follow is to consider it like the midday sun. At its brightest and when it’s in your subject’s face, it can be quite harsh and make it difficult for your subject to open their eyes (we all know how squinting in the bright sun makes us feel!).

When taking photographs in this lighting, you can also find deep shadows under the eyes and jaws, which can ruin your photographs instantly!

Why are we telling you all this doom-and-gloom stuff? Well, it’s important to know what to avoid when using front lighting. Perhaps you have to work with the natural midday sun for a wedding or graduation photoshoot? In these cases, knowing what type of lighting and positioning to avoid can save your photographs!

To use front lighting, you will want the correct exposure, especially when dealing with bright sunlight. You want to prevent your highlights from blowing out to create a wonderfully lit photograph.

A soft white reflector or off-camera flash is best to use, and these will open up the shadows and fill them with lights. Gone are dark circles under the eyes and jaws; your subjects will look beautifully bright and well lit!

Position your subjects too where they are comfortable and keep their eyes open when looking at the camera. It can take some positioning to achieve this, so be sure to have some patience and remember your client!

The more comfortable they are, the better your image is going to look! Why not get creative here and hunt for some lighting that will flatter your clients without blinding them?

If you have used high-speed sync and strobes before, then now is the time to use them again! If you shoot beyond the sync speed, you can darken your surroundings, allowing you to add more depth and shadows to the image.

You will need to be careful here and keep the strobe close to the subjects to help battle the midday sun. As a general rule, we say the brighter the sun, the harder your strobe will have to work.

If you are working with artificial front lighting, you have more options and can easily create shadows. You can angle the light higher than the subject and angle it down towards them, and these higher angles can help cast shadows and create a more dramatic image.

If your shadows fall under the subject’s nose and chin, this is a technique known as butterfly lighting. Otherwise known as beauty lighting, this is popular with magazines and most fashion photographers. This lighting is flattering for any fine lines or wrinkles and adds definition to the face. If you are shooting portraits, it’s worth using front lighting in this way!

There are a few different ways to manipulate front light too, which will allow you to create better shots. You can block the light and create shade by holding an item between your subject and the light. How opaque the object is will determine the amount of light that comes through, so be sure to play around with this!

You can also completely block the light if you want to or use a diffuser to create a softer effect and add some more shadows to the subject.

Diffusing the light is one of the easiest ways to manipulate your front lighting, and you can control how much light hits your subject and where to create the shadows you want to. Be sure to take a diffuser with you when shooting outdoors to make the front lighting work for you!

Final Thoughts

And there you have it! Front lighting is when your light for a photograph is in front of the subject, and there are many ways you can use this to your advantage. Whether you are shooting outdoors with the midday sun or working with an on-camera flash, there are many ways that front lighting can be flattering. Why not use some of our tips today to transform your photography?