Lighting basics?

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#1 NATHDAPUNK on 4 years ago

Hi all,

I'm starting to learn photography, with the intent of doing some cosplay stuff, and am struggling to get my head around the whole concept of lighting. Does anyone happen to have some pointers/a link to something basic that would help to explain lighting in cosplay shots? :)

#2 brucer007 on 4 years ago

Standard portrait lighting concepts can apply to cosplay photography. A goal is often to find, or create flattering lighting, but it depends on the characters you are photographing, since some characters might benefit from more dramatic, or even scary lighting.

There are many opportunities to shoot in existing light without using a flash, a reflector, or other modifiers. Just look around and find good lighting. Try to avoid unflattering shadows on the eyes, and over-all face. Sometimes having the cosplayer turn their head, or body towards the light, will improve the lighting. Your exposure settings will have a profound affect on how lighting looks, so experiment with the brightness. I have found great lighting shooting at conventions with sky light windows. Shooting in the shade may be a great option, if the sun is too high, and/or too harsh and contrasty. It will also be easier on the cosplayer's eyes, so they don't squint.

The color balance your camera set for, will affect your lighting a lot. Experiment between accurate skin tones, and also try going for a blue, or warm, orange, or other color effect, etc. The movie " "The Matrix", even used a green tint on the skin tones.

If you use a flash on your camera, I recommend you don't point your flash directly at the cosplayer. It will usually have a flat effect. Learning to bounce your flash off of white, or grey walls, ceiling, reflectors, or pillars, etc, can have very satisfying results. Off camera flash, putting the flash on a light stand, about 45 degrees or so, away from your camera can create nice highlights with shadows to give your subject more shape and textures. I sometimes use 2 or three flashes at once. Putting colored gels in front of some of your flashes can add more color, which often looks nice with cosplay. Consider lighting the location, as well as the cosplayer.

At night, some LED panel lights can be very useful. I use lights that have around 200 LEDs per panel. That will usually give you a light with decent brightness.

Look at other photographer's images, and see if there is something you would like to emulate. I have nearly 800 images in my photo gallery, here at

Below, is an example of skylight at a convention, using a flash on a light stand, bounced into a white umbrella, and a slave flash behind her, to create a bright edge on her right arm and her hair. The walls were light by the sun indirectly coming through the skylight windows.

Let me know if you have any questions.


#3 Av4rice on 4 years ago

Here's where I learned lighting:


#4 NATHDAPUNK on 4 years ago

Thanks for the above pointers :). I'm going to have a proper read tomorrow of everything (when its not 1am) and will get back if I have any questions after that :)

#5 WonJohnSoup on 4 years ago

Are you asking about wrapping your mind around the concept of lighting in photography in general or the execution of it?

The way I would explain it to a beginner is that a piece of camera film (or nowadays, a digital camera sensor) literally just detects light. That's how photography works. Photo = light, graphy = drawing. That big camera lens? That focuses the light in front of the lens into a tiny little image behind the lens, where it's imprinted onto the film. That's why lighting is so important to photographers. It's the very technological basis of the field. And so if you manipulate the way the light hits your subject, you manipulate how the subject appears.

The best way is to be shown examples. In this one, the left image is with a person standing in a forest. The sun is overheard and peaks through the treetops, hits the person mostly from above and behind, and that light reflected off the person hits the lens and imprints onto the film/sensor. In the right image the photographer placed an artificial light off to "our" left, about ten feet above the ground, and aimed to the model's front. Now the model has both the sunlight peaking from the treetops above AND some artificial light coming from her front. So it looks brighter. Most people would say the image on the right looks better. And it's because the photographer knew how to "see" the light and modified the lighting accordingly for the camera.


Once you see that, you might look at a very dramatic and "artificially" controlled studio shot like this:


And you might be able to guess that the photographer lit the subject from above, like this:


That's a very general overview of how lighting affects the shot. It's like basic arithmetic. 1 + 1 = 2 and you can understand that. Once you gain experience you start to be be to handle 2311 * (123 + 24235) + 2(1/2). The basis is just 1 + 1. Hope that helps! =)