It’s All About the Light – Part 2 of 3

This is part 2 of 3 in a series about selecting the best reference photos you can based on the light.  If you have not yet read Part 1, click here to read it first.

Let’s find better Photographs.

In Part 1 we looked at five different directions of light:

  1. Side or Low Lighting
  2. Back Lighting
  3. Top Lighting
  4. Front Lighting
  5. Diffused or Overcast Lighting

The first two directions create lovely photos, fit for painting.  The last three are not as attractive. In this part we are going to use the example photos from Part 1 and find optional photos with the same subject but better lighting.

A Better Chicken Photo – Top Lighting


By selecting a photograph with side lighting it is easier to see the details in the chicken because the shadows add depth and definition.

The Sunflower had front lighting.

Look at the three options for a better sunflower reference photo: two from the side and one backlit.


The shadows cast in those lit from the sides let us feel like we could touch the sunflowers.  The one that is backlit is just interesting and pretty and there are some shadows tool.


Street Scene and Rocky Landscape taken on overcast days.


This isn’t a very exciting photo but by selecting one with some light and shadows it’s improved. You can feel the shape of the building because the shadows show you.


Look how much more interesting this picture of the rocks is with the light and shadows.  I love this example because this looks like where I live. The shadows give you so much depth and the colors are much more vibrant in the second picture.

My advice is that when you are looking at reference photos, even if they’re by your best friend, look at the direction of the light and find the one with the best lighting to paint.

In Part 3, next week, we will learn how to Determine the Light Source.




2 thoughts on “It’s All About the Light – Part 2 of 3

  1. Kellie Chasse October 23, 2016 / 4:53 pm

    Thanks Sheryl, I love using photo’s as a light reference. When I don’t, I’m often looking at my painting trying to figure out what looks off and it’s usually the shadows. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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