Identifying Light in a Photograph (Part 1)

When we look at any photograph, it is, largely, the light that determines how we feel about the image and as photographers, it is essential that we understand how to control light to evoke certain emotions.

Equally important as knowing how to control light is knowing how to identify light, which is what Karl focuses on in this live show.

Karl starts by explaining how we can learn by knowing how to identify light and also then apply this knowledge to enhance our own imagery. He then explains the ‘tools’ that we can use to identify light in an image, including shadows, form, hardness/softness of light and reflectivity.

Working through a number of images, Karl shows examples of lighting from different modifiers and identifies the lighting in various images, explaining how each was lit.

Topics covered in this show include:

  • The importance of light in photography
  • How to identify light in an image
  • Effects of different lighting modifiers
  • A brief summary of the inverse square law and ray tracing

For further examples of lighting walkthroughs, watch our follow-on live show ‘Lighting walkthrough live show’.

If you have any questions about this show, please post in the comment section below.


  1. This is why I joined. The way you explain everything in such great detail with such attention to detail is how one can truly learn the craft. I’m somewhat new to all of this, and have never really been in a position financially to pursue it professionally. It’s definitely not one of the cheapest trades to get into, that’s for sure, Lol. I understand that you don’t always need the best equipment to get started but it certainly makes a difference in the quality of your material. I’m just glad I found you. Lighting has always baffled me, Until Now! And it was the main reason I joined Karl Taylor Education. I could never thank you enough for the clarity and understanding I have gained from your teachings. Sincerely, thank you. You have earned yourself a lifelong pupil. Much appreciation and gratitude, sir. Thanks again.

    1. Sorry, I didn’t realize my nickname was set up that way. My name is John, by the way. Just thought I’d introduce myself. Thank you again for this amazing platform.

  2. Hi Karl. The soup photo is mine. thanks for your deduction. You are right about the hard light coming from behind and also the big difused light coming from left and right. So the bowl does not have shadows primeraly becouse the hard light from behind is a light with a projection attachement with an abstract gobo so I directed the light just to the background and hited just the corner of the chopping board that is why it produces a shadow but not the bowl it self becouse it was just lit with the softboxes and difusion material. It is not a montage just a single capture and I understand this ilumination can be odd for the missing shadows of the bowl. The costumer wanted a gobo patern in the background but very soft light over the bowl with almost no sahdows. I now is odd! haha. One other thing that you are also right is the lack of specularity over the liquid since is glossy. That is something I should have introduced in a more sharply way. Best from Ecuador!

  3. JMitchPhotography

    I really enjoyed this live segment, I am going to practice these technics. Thank you so much!!

  4. Interesting topic today and something I should practice more of. Since learning about light, I also see movies in a different light so to speak. Some of them do not make sense lighting wise but most people don’t notice it in a movie.

    1. Hi Geoff, using movies is a great way to learn lighting but as you say they are not always perfect, many people don’t realise that something can be wrong but subconsciously the brain asks questions.

  5. Thank you Karl. The use of the corrugated tin was way to busy. I struggled with white background.

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