Appropriate lighting is key to creating successful commercial photographs, whether you’re capturing a corporate event or a set of hotel rooms. Light not only establishes the brightness of an image, it also plays an important part in setting the tone and mood of a shot. Here’s why it’s so important for photographers and why we often need to manipulate light to get the image we want.

Natural light often isn’t enough
When shooting inside in particular, lighting is necessary to create the right balance, emphasise the subject properly and bring the whole image to life. Without our own light, photographers in the UK are at the mercy of the British weather and interior lights that are often fitted into the ceiling – it’s not ideal for creating a shot with atmosphere. Bringing lighting equipment to a shoot means we can choose where the source of light is positioned, reduce glare and soften harsh shadows.

The right details can be emphasised
Lighting means that certain details of a photograph can be emphasised to create a more interesting image or capture a certain mood better. For example, if we want to pick out a particular object or feature in a room or setting, we may need a spot light to draw attention to it in the finished image.
Similarly, without additional lighting it’s difficult to show, say, a group of people near to or against a window, as the window can end up looking over exposed, while the people’s faces are too shadowy. Lit properly, however, the subjects’ faces are clear and the view out of the window is also visible, making for a balanced and more inviting shot.

Light has a temperature
Different light sources have different hues or ‘temperatures’, which can cast varying moods on a photograph. Candlelight, for example, has a more orange hue than a fluorescent light, producing a warmer mood, while a camera flash might create a bluer hue on an image making it look colder. It’s therefore important to consider the existing light sources when on a commercial photography shoot and add extras when trying to create a certain mood. A blue hue, for instance, is unlikely to make a hotel room look inviting and comfortable in a promotional image, so it may be necessary to use a lighting kit to create that effect.

Post production isn’t always the answer

It’s easy to assume that poor lighting can be corrected in post production, but despite the clever technology and software out there today, it’s simply not true. Getting the lighting right at the time of the shoot ensures that parts of the image aren’t accidently under or over exposed – a lapse that’s hard to correct with software – and that the subject appears how we want it to. It also enables us to portray the nuances and tones that give an impression to the viewer of being at that place or event, which in turn evokes the emotional response that is a key part of good promotion.