4 Types of Lighting for Architecture Photography

There are two type lighting, natural lighting, and artificial lighting. Natural lighting is lighting sourced from the sun and it uncontrollable. Artificial lighting is lighting sourced from a manmade object and controllable. In this article, I will explain about the biggest light in this earth (I don’t know about another universe, lol) and how we can use it in photography. This is 4 types of lighting for architecture photography.

Before we begin I must say that these lightings do not only work for architecture photography. But also any other kind of photography that uses natural light as it only lighting.

4 Types of Lighting for Architecture Photography

In Lighting, we can rate and categorized lighting as a good and bad lighting. So here goes:

Good Lighting

#1 Sidelight

Sidelight is when light directed from the side of the frame. This lighting is the ideal form of natural lighting because of many reasons:

  • Sidelight creates the strongest form of shadow that gives a three-dimensional view to the photo.
  • Sidelight has many colors (red, orange, yellow) which are nice for color photography.
  • Sidelight gives a solid impression to an object. the sun that creates more contrast shadow gives impression to an object. It also shows texture to object.

To achieve sidelight, the photo has to be taken around morning or evening when the sun still around the horizon. The direction of the camera has to be around north or south (or anywhere as long it beside the sun).

#2 Front Light

The front light is when light directed from the front of the frame. This lighting is quite complicated and can go both ways, as a good lighting and also as a bad lighting.

It bad because the front light hardly creates shadow on an architecture that makes the architecture looks three dimensions on a photo. It also reduces contrast, which is bad if you want to show a different part of the architecture. If it did wrong, a photo with front light might end up flat and boring.

It can also be good if front light did in right way. Front light can create solid color to object. It can also give a solid impression form object if that what you wanted.

To achieve a good front light, the photo has to be taken around sunset or sunrise, when the sun still around the horizon. Avoid the time when the sun rises enough (usually around mid-morning to mid-afternoon). The direction of the camera is behind the sun.

Bad Light

#3 Above Light

Above Light is when light directed from above the frame. This is considered not only in architecture photography but also much other photography as the worst time for taking photograph.

The reason is that above light is the hardest light. It also creates the smallest shadow to object, which is bad because it hardly shows three dimensional to object. It also has a little color to the sky, which also creates boring and flat sky.

But in a specific case, architecture photography can be done in this situation. By doing some things:

Use Polarizer filter. By using this filter, it can give more contrast and color to the sky and reflective object.

Doing black and white. Boring photo sometime is a good excuse for making black and white photography (that’s how I first doing black and white photo). Since shadow can’t create contrast, we can use tone (which is shown more in black and white) to show a contrast of form in architecture.

Above light situation can be achieved as a long photo is taken around midday when the sun can be seen above the head.

#4 Back Light

Back Light is when light directed from behind the frame. This light quite popular because it creates the most dramatic light and also creates a great shadow from behind. That is if we’re talking about landscape photography. But in architecture photography, I consider backlight as a bad light.

The reason is that backlight will reduce the appearance of detail in the architecture. And in most cases only show a solid outline of architecture, which good if that’s the only thing you wanted. Even if you want to show the detail of architecture, that means you have to increase the exposure which causes overexpose in the background.

There are few things that I can think of in this lighting situation. Like, you can take 2 or 3 photos with different exposure then combine them in post-processing. Another way is to take the photo at a higher altitude than your subject. It can show the dramatic lighting and shadow in architecture.

Backlight condition is achieved when the photo is taken around morning and afternoon. And the sun is behind the subject and in front of the camera. The camera is directed around east in morning or around west in evening.

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