When it comes to any type of photography, the most important aspect of taking a picture is the lighting behind it. Without the proper lighting, you might as well just put your camera down, turn on the television and enjoy a nice relaxing soap opera or talk show; the latter is just as much of a waste of time as taking a picture in improper lighter as the results are the same: They're both a waste of a perfectly good day.
When it comes to photographic lighting, there are three different types: The good, the bad and the ugly. Obviously, ugly lighting is the worst their can be and there's no way to salvage a picture if the lighting is that horrific. Bad lighting can be said to take a combination of good and ugly lighting, sometimes you can save the picture and other times you can, and it just all depends on what steps you take to try to better the picture either during development or digitally. Good lighting is what every photographer shoots for but doesn't always achieve; good lighting makes even a compromised subject stand out, regardless of the quality of the shot itself.
Let's start with good lighting. Good lighting is the ideal conditions to take the perfect picture with the lighting aid in the overall quality of the picture. This occurs when lighting is at an angle with the picture, not directly in view of the lens or behind the camera, thus, you let the lighting take over where the flash cannot. This is why you flash works sometimes and doesn't work other times. The flash is a tool used to facilitate a balance between the natural light in your picture and the lack of natural light; thus, when you avoid using the flash by setting up the perfect light shot, you are avoiding the overcompensation and potential damage a flash can do. Most cameras, even digital, do not have different levels of flash that go off, they have a standard flash, and as such, this can cause more harm than good to photographs if you aren't careful with your lighting. You always want to make sure that lighting is aiding a picture; this is the aim of good lighting.
Next, we move on to the opposite of good lighting: Ugly lighting. Ugly lighting is the worst form of lighting you can have involved with your pictures. This either means there isn't enough light which causes an extremely grainy and dark picture of too much light which produces a too-bright-for-stage spotlight blast on your subject; sometimes, this can even engulf the entire picture and if your drop of your film somewhere to be developed, will often be discarded so as not to waste your time. Luckily, with the advent of the digital camera, you can tell right away if there is too little or too much light, and you can take steps to correct it by taking another picture and adjusting the settings of the overall photo. When it comes to ugly lighting, sometimes you just can't do a thing to fix the quality and will have to give in and lose the shot for another day, because there is nothing you can do if your lighting is working against you to create a horrible picture.
Finally, we have bad lighting, which is by far much better than ugly lighting but only depending on who took the picture. What's meant by that? Well, if you are using a digital camera but don't notice that the lighting looks bad and load the pictures onto your computer, chances are you have a graphics art program that will aid you in trying to eliminate or add light to the picture. While this may not always work, sometimes, it's just what you need to enhance the balance of light in your picture and save what could very well be an excellent photo for your collection. However, if you have no knowledge of these types of programs, you may be out of luck for fixing the shot other than taking the picture again if you have the opportunity.
Lighting can both be an asset and a detriment. This is why it's important to understand the importance of the feature in the quality of your photos. Once you understand its importance and take care to make sure you are using the proper kind of lighting, always go for good lighting, even if you know it isn't possible. Keep in mind, semi-good lighting or average-good lighting are better than bad or ugly lighting any day of the week. As you get more practice taking pictures with different kinds of light, at different times of the day, you will become more proficient at being able to judge whether a picture will come out looking all right at the end of the day when developed, and you'll be able to take better pictures for your effort.