An online book of Common Sense Photography, by Rhett Stuart

Diffused Lighting and Reflective Lighting


Diffused lighting creates reflective lighting. There are hardly any shadows with reflective lighting. In Virginia, during the summer, there is a lot of reflective lighting from all the humidity in the air. The sunlight reflects off of the microscopic air drops and creates diffused lighting. Diffused lighting is better, but too much diffused lighting causes the colors to be subdued. Consider boosting the color saturation setting on your camera. For example, use the landscape mode on your digital camera. Also too much diffused lighting can create no shadows with the insect or flower.

Without much contrast the insect sometimes doesn’t have that much character. If you want more shadows to create contrast with a lot of reflective lighting then hold up a black umbrella on the side you want to be shady. This blocks the diffused lighting from one side and creates some contrast.

In California there is a lot of direct sunlight. This can create dark shadows creating too much contrast. The digital camera doesn’t do well revealing the details in the shadows (see What is Dynamic Range? at The shadows conceal too much detail. There is mostly washed out bright areas or deeply shadowed areas. To create diffused lighting in direct sunlight hold up a white umbrella to "shade" the subject to decrease the shadows. Also by holding a large white card or reflector on the shady side of the flower can show details that are in the shadows. This can greatly illuminate the subject.