Ep 58: Seeing the light: Rookie lighting mistakes and how to overcome them

ep 58 artwork

Lighting can make or break a shot. And sometimes we can get so caught up in the shutter speed or composition or depth of field that we forget the basics about lighting.

Gina and Valerie discuss common rookie lighting mistakes – and ways to overcome them. From simple hacks and great techniques, you’ll discover lighting tips that you’ll be able to use straight away!

#ginachallenge #peelingpotatoes

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Show notes

Shout outs


Sunny Valmiki Rembrandt lighting
Above: Sunny Valmiki (Goa); Perfect Rembrandt lighting


Allan Malenfant selfie with umbrella and nutella preset
Above: Allan Malenfant: Selfie with umbrella balanced with daylight processed using Nutella preset


Ky Hanson MacGyver of the week
Above: Ky Hanson (MacGyver of the week)

Yongnuo Gear

Yongnuo RF-603 N1 wireless camera trigger

Yongnuo starter pack equipment

Yongnuo starter pack

YONGNUO YN-560 III Bundle With RF-603 II Single Transceiver for Canon

Photo critique 1

3 photos of a young boy by Dianna Frausto-Gonzalez photo critique
Above: By Dianna Frausto-Gonzalez

“Happy Sunday everyone! I just set up my very first in home studio. I’m wondering if I could get some feedback on these images. Feel free to take off the kid gloves and knit pick any little thing you see. I learn better that way:) Thank you!” – Dianna Frausto-Gonzalez

Photo critique 2

close up photo of a wooden dragon by Tracy Tieman
Above: By Tracy Tieman

“This is my first post. I am looking for honest opinions as I work on improving my photography. It’s my first time using a 35mm prime lens (which I love!). Thoughts on lighting or composition? Thnx!” – Tracy Tieman

Rookie Lighting Mistakes and How to Overcome Them

1. Shooting portraits in daylight

How to avoid shark eyes: No catch lights

  • Always try and have a large light source behind you
  • Add catch lights with a reflector
  • Look for large bright white surfaced like trucks
  • Wear a white shirt

How to avoid raccoon eyes

  • Sun is directly above the model
  • Tilt face
  • Use a diffusors
  • Move to shade
  • Uneven lighting/dappled light
  • Look for even “open shade’

2. How to deal with highly reflective surfaces

The Law of reflection: The angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence

big blob reflection example
Above: When photographing highly reflective surfaces and objects, hotspots, reflections and flare can be minimised by the angle of light hitting the object, and the quality of light used

Be careful of signage and media walls.

Lights reflected on windows in the background of shots

  • The easiest way to avoid this is to change the angle of the lights slightly or move them so they reflect into a part of the frame that is not visible.
  • If you can’t move the lights, then lock off the tripod and shoot 2 exposures, one for the windows and one for the roomset.

Light reflected in glasses

  • The same rules apply to photographing a model wearing glasses
  • You can either ask the model to change the angle of their head or change the angle of the lighting.
  • I find it’s easier to ask the model to tilt their head slightly down rather than move lights around.

Highly reflective products

  • Shoot in an all white room or create one using white boards
  • Wear clothes that won’t reflect in the product you’re trying to photograph
  • Large objects like cars can be photographed in large empty car parks under an overcast sky

In a nutshell:

  • If you’re getting reflections or hotspots, change the angle of the light
  • Use large diffusers
  • Photoshop

3. Balancing light

4. Rookie flash mistakes


I still recommend overexposing skin tone by 1-11/2 stops but try and avoid blowing out the skin tone altogether because it just looks weird.
As a general rule it’s best to see some tone and texture in the skin.

  • Flash is too bright so you get hot spot
  • Use large soft diffusors: move light as close to your subject as possible
  • Use a light meter
  • Get a loop to view the LCD screen outside or go “old school” and use a black cloth. Like this: Hoodman loops

Underlighting/ too moody

Lighting that’s too flat or even

Filet mignon-ing when you haven’t finished peeling the potatoes yet

Take baby steps:

  1. Shoot with daylight
  2. Use an umbrella
  3. Move on to softbox/umbrellabox/octabox
  4. Then use Grids
  5. After that, try beauty dishes
  6. Then try mixing lighting styles

#GinaChallenge #peelingpotatoes

How to direct and pose like a pro

About Gina

About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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