Photography Lighting 101: What to use and what to avoid

Photography Lighting 101: What to use and what to avoid



Flashes, Reflectors, LEDs and Incandescents! As a photographer there are many lighting options, and it frankly can be overwhelming. In this article I will rank what light sources are the best to worst.


Pop-Up/Built-In Flash: 3/10

Pop-Up and Built-In flash are attached to your camera from the start. Beginners who don’t have much flash experience love them as it is automated by the camera.

Cons: Lack of control, inability to bounce lighting, and it’s very harsh lighting (don’t even get me started about how blinding it is)!


External Flashes:10/10

There’s a reason why professional photographers exclusively use external flashes. These flashes offer control over speed, brightness, and the angle of your flash. Additionally, you can sync up multiple flashes for a single shot, similar to what you might see in editorials.

Cons: They can be bulky, expensive, and require their own batteries.



LEDs are a lightsource that stay on throughout your shoot. They allow you to preview your lighting, they don’t overheat and are rechargeable. Many models offer a full RGB spectrum that can be remote controlled through your phone (ex: Vidpro RGB 152 $99.99).

Cons: They don’t produce as much light as a flash, runtimes are under 2 hours and normally they are used for video.



Incandescents are the reason you look bad in photos taken indoors. They are predisposed to casting a yellow tone over their subjects. It isn’t recommended as a light source unless you are looking for a diffused, yellow look.

Cons: They get EXTREMELY hot, are often bulky and pretone your image for you. Adjusting the color is a nightmare!


Have more questions? Schedule a 1-on-1 in-person photo class at the Shutterbug (1 hr for $45) online or in-store! Need to rent a camera? Give us a call for availability at (503) 639-5088.