The Most Important Rule in Lighting

There are lots of rules when it comes to lighting, from the inverse square law, to lighting ratios, and everything in-between. But in this video, Lindsay Adler talks to us about the most important rule in lighting.

Lindsay Adler is a fashion, portrait, and beauty photographer based in New York City. She has worked with such brands as Elle, Harpers Bazaar, Canon, and more. She is someone who has a career that most photographers dream of, so when she releases a video on her YouTube channel I, tend to sit up and pay attention. I find her videos incredibly useful and informative, even if they are just brushing up on the basics.

Her newest video dives into the most important rule of lighting. Something I really appreciate in her videos is how short they are. The video is short and sweet at four minutes long while still being informative and offers some great lessons for anyone who wants to improve their lighting skills.

What do you think of her suggestion that this is the most important lighting rule? Do you agree or disagree? Sound off below.

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8 Comments

Nick Viton's picture

She was in Toronto recently for ProFusion 2019. Did you go see her?

Narada Williams's picture

yeah Nick i saw her a couple times for a diff presentation - man shes great!!

I loved the wonderful information about hard and soft light. However, I would not call that the MOST important rule about light for photographers.

I think the most important rule, which many photographers forget, (and thus “up the ISO”), is that we paint with light, so we need to control the light, and add it if necessary. Using a higher exposure index is not the solution for low light; it is a workaround. (Also, there are times with a great deal of light where we still want to raise the EI, not because of lack of light, but because of the other effects that doing that has on the image.

If you have no idea to what it is I am referring, then you never really learned for what the “ISO” setting on your light-meter/develop module is actually used. Like all choices we make, using a EI value which is different from the base sensitivity affects the qualities of the image, (and more than just noise).

Kirk Darling's picture

I would agree with you, Karim.

I would say, "The most important rule is: See and control the light."

After that comes all the techniques of seeing and controlling the light, and one of those would be knowing what hard and soft light means in the image, then knowing how to make light hard or soft.

Kirk Darling's picture

There is also some confusion between hard light, soft light, and "well-filled (low contrast) light," which may be either hard or soft.

If you look at some of the old movies up through the early 60s, they often had very hard light that was very well filled shadows, particularly in the old westerns. They might have a hard light that had shadows no more than half a stop less than the highlights, that tended to give the image an effect of non-specular brilliance, not just "brightness."

spencer robertson's picture

This video is missing another very important element of light which almost never gets any attention on blogs like this: specular vs diffuse light. You can have a diffused but hard light and you can also have specular and soft light... if you know what you are doing.

Size of source, distance from subject, specularity, contrast ratios, and colour make up the quality of light.

Robert Montgomery's picture

Always make sure the plug is grounded and smoke coming from the pak is never good.

Eric Grapher's picture

The MOST Important Rule in Lighting is...

Turn your light source to ON. If the sun is your light source, shoot between dawn and dusk; as dusk to dawn, natural light is practically zilch.