If you recall we have been talking about lighting and more specifically about how the direction of the light affects your image. This week we are going to talk about side lighting. With side lighting the light is coming directly from your left or right. This type of lighting creates some useful effects. One of the main benefits of side lighting is that it really helps emphasis texture. Because the light is racking across your subject any raised areas in the image will cast a shadow. Our eyes see these shadows and give the impression of depth in your image.
The shot accompanying this post is a close up of a monarch butterflies wing scales. I used side lighting to highlight the texture of the scales. Because of the extreme magnification involved this image it was made in my studio and I used flash to light the shot. Actually two flashes, the first light, the main light was shot at full power from the viewers upper right. This main light racks across the wing causing each scale to cast a tiny shadow. I placed a second fill light on the lower left side of the subject. This fill flash was fired at half power to “fill in” the shadows cast by the first light. The reason I do this is to soften the shadows. Remember we want the shadows. They give the impression of depth in the image. But, I don’t want each scale to cast a dark featureless shadow, but rather a softer shadow. Which will still give the illusion of depth, in our two dimensional image without the harshness of dark heavy shadows. This same thing can be accomplished when natural light by using reflectors to bounce the light onto the shaded side of your subject.