Tips For Better Lighting In Magazine Photography


Stock images have a bad rap. For years, royalty-free images were synonymous with cheesy, bland photos that signaled poor quality and zero originality. Today, there are plenty of great repositories out there with hi-res, quality photos and reasonable prices. However, even the best stock photos have limitations. Magazine covers, feature stories and other key articles are just a few situations when stock images just won't cut it for your publication. If you want to capture your subject's originality or convey unique ideas, you'll need custom photography. Working with an experienced magazine photographer is the surest way to capture the best possible shots. However, if you have the time and staff, you can learn lighting and photography basics that will elevate your imagery.

Here are a few practical, above-the-bar tips that will yield higher quality photographs for your articles.

1. Achieve Perfection With Lighting Equipment

The quality of your image will be dependent on the lighting you're able to pull off. There's a best practice for each type of photography:


Get two adjustable light stands, which are often available as a kit with lights for a few hundred dollars or less. You can pick up a studio kit, as it's the same thing but with more studio equipment. The tall, powerful lights push out any chance of asymmetry, as the area around the person is wholly bright.


There's not much you can do to enhance the lighting of a landscape image outside. However, you can modify what's already shining down with a few different techniques. The best way to understand optimal lighting for pictures of places outside is by learning how to master beach photography.


Get a lighting tent and learn how to use it. You'll be able to capture images of your product while ensuring symmetric lighting. This lets you obtain good pictures at any angle.

If you're taking pictures outside, also don't forget to take advantage of the UV filter option if it's available with your camera. This will help block ultraviolet rays from ruining the quality of your picture.

2. Use Exposure Bracketing

Exposure bracketing is not an advanced technique, but it's a specific strategy that can help you deal with tough lighting situations. The process involves using the automatic exposure bracketing feature that most DSLR cameras have.

When exposure bracketing runs, the camera will take three pictures. The first is one that's supposedly correct and with proper lighting. The next two are slight variations, with one being overexposed and the other underexposed. The result is an image without any major lighting faults.

3. Master Reflection Photography

Most photographers use reflection as a fancy display of symmetry. However, by putting emphasis on the reflection, and making it the target during your photo shoot, the end result can be breathtaking.

When doing reflection photography, here are some important things to know:

  • Everything from glass to ice, sand, snow and water can serve as a reflective surface for photography purposes.
  • For outdoor pictures in highlighting, the overexposure can be compensated for naturally by using a reflector.
  • The "polarize" mode on your camera works very well when taking images with wet reflective surfaces like water and snow.
  • For a full polarizing effect, you can buy polarizing filters.
  • For product photography, reflections are usually added in during the photo editing process. If you want maximum quality, though, find new ways to capture product images through reflective surfaces.

There's no systematic way to ensure a set quality standard for the photographs that your publication needs. In order for your photos to draw emotion or invoke action, it takes some trial and error to see what works, but the above strategies and tips are a great starting point.

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