Photography

What Is Ghost Light in Photography?

Learn about this mysterious lighting technique and how you can use it to take incredible photos

Ghost light is a lighting technique that photographer Ibai Acevedo (@ibai) discovered while trying to find the best way to light his models and control the light as much as possible, both how it is perceived and how it appears.

Imagine you want to photograph a person using a diffuser, playing with the light and shadows. Given that you need the light source to be close to your model in order to achieve the right lighting, surely the light source will be visible in the frame?

Well, Ibai discovered that it’s possible to light your model without showing your light source. He does this by creating a layered composition as if it were a collage. This gives you the power to decide what you want and don't want to show in the photograph: he calls this technique “ghost light”.

What Is Ghost Light in Photography? 1
Photograph by Ibai Acevedo using the ghost light technique.

What’s the secret?

An invisible cut. The trick is to hide the source of light that's shining on your model so that the viewer can’t see where the light’s coming from. This technique achieves a sense of reality and bewilderment, as you see the model lit up, but the light source doesn’t appear in the frame.

What Is Ghost Light in Photography? 3
Photograph by Ibai Acevedo using the ghost light technique.
What Is Ghost Light in Photography? 4
Photograph by Ibai Acevedo using the ghost light technique.

Ibai Acevedo teaches the course Ghost Light: lighting technique and colour treatment, in which he shows you his step-by-step process for taking a portrait playing using his unconventional lighting technique: ghost light.

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