Photo Tip Friday - How Does Lighting Affect a Picture?

Welcome back! 

Today, I want to show you how much lighting affects a picture. 

Recently, I was in a hotel in downtown Indianapolis. Right across from our room was a grand old theater called the Indiana Repertory Theater. Since I was there a few days, I noticed how beautiful the front was and how much the time of day affected how the theater looked. 

So I want to show you how lighting changes the mood in a photograph and how to use it to better advantage. 

Let's get started.
Taken at 4:23 pm

As you can see, I took this shot at 4:23 pm. (Aren't digital cameras amazing at tracking information for us?) 

Notice the very angular shadow across the theater? That's a shadow from another downtown building. 

But look how flat the shadow makes the facade. 

Taken at 5:22 pm
Now, look at the sunlight across the theater just an hour later.

Notice how architecturally interesting the building is?

And the shadow of the other building is completely gone. 

Remember that the sun's movement is very dynamic. Use it to your advantage to create better shots.

Taken at 5:22 pm

This is the same shot as above, except it's portrait or vertical. I wanted to focus in on the detail a little bit more than I could on the landscape or horizontal shot above. 

Remember last week's lesson on horizontal versus vertical shots? If not, you can go to Part 1 here, or Part 2 here.

Taken at 7:00 pm

I took this photo an hour and a half later. 

What differences can you see? 

Which of these two shots do you like better and why? 

Taken at 8:08 pm
The city of Indianapolis knows what it's doing. This building is beautiful and so they have obviously thought about lighting and showing off the architecture, especially after sun down. 

Do you see the wonderful uplighting they employ? 

The building comes alive at night. It has a very different feel to it than it does during the day. 

GUIDELINE: I will let you know about sunlight between the hours of 10 am to 3 pm. It's called devil lighting. Notice I didn't even take any shots during that time? I wished I had for the sake of this post, but the building just didn't catch my eye during that time frame. 

You can take pictures during the 10 am to 3 pm time frame, but just be aware that the lighting then is very harsh. You can learn to use it to create good shots, but the more magical shots happen as the sun is rising and setting. The colors intensify and the shadows are more manageable. 

I'll post more on this in the future. 

So, what observations can you make about the use of lighting and shadows in these shots?

How will that help you? 

Hope these tips help! 

Keep on clicking! 



  1. Whoo never thought if the lighting, thanks for sharing...

    1. It does make a difference! Thanks fro dropping by and hosting the weekend blog party!

  2. I like vertical 5:22 because it shows the intricate detail on the building, but I emotionally react to 8:08 portrait. The artificial light from the outside and inside make me want to go into the building to see what is going on. Thanks for the tip

    1. I know, the 8:08 shot has so many interesting colors displayed. You can see the wonderful brickwork on the sidewalk in that one as well.

      Thanks for dropping by Marcia!

  3. When I take pictures, I never even think about shadows or sunlight.

    1. I bet you will now! ;) Thanks for dropping by Joyce.

  4. I noticed that the pictures taken at 5:22 look different in the lighting . The background and the doorframes and windows are lighter in the second one. Why is that if they were taken at the same time? Does the camera somehow let in more light according to how you hold it?

    1. That's a great question Ellen! I wondered if anyone would catch that subtlety.

      The reason for the change in lighting is not the result of the horizontal versus vertical nature of the two shots.

      It's because of the overall composition of the each picture and the meter reading from the camera.

      When you use your camera, do you notice the red dots that cause the camera to focus on your subject? They also read the light levels for your shot.

      So, in the second or two it took for me to turn the camera AND change the length of the lens (by zooming in for the vertical shot), the camera took another light meter reading and it changed. If you saw either shot, you'd see I had good lighting. But by having them right next to each other here, you can see the difference.

      This is why playing with your camera and experimenting can help you learn to be a better photographer.

      I know it's a technical answer. But let me know if I explained it well enough for you Ellen!

      Thanks for dropping by!