We are going to take a moment to discuss for the beginning photographer exactly how the different directions light comes from affects your pictures. Depending upon the direction it can either enhance your pictures, or it can destroy the image. If you understand what the different lighting directions can do to your image you will become better at selecting the direction that will enable your picture to look its best.
Top Lighting -This is what it is called when the light strikes the subject of the photograph from the direct top. This tends to be a very undesirable lighting angle, it tends to cause people to have very dark eye sockets, and create very unflattering shadows on the face. This lighting direction tends to cause very short and extremely dark shadows that are harsh on your image. Pictures tend to look flat, and do not have even a hint of a three-dimensional effect.
Front Lighting -This is what you would think would be a dream situation. However, looks can be deceiving. This is good for the most part for people, except that it tends to cause dark shadows behind the subject, as well as when most people have light from this direction coming at them, for example the sun they tend to squint their eyes. Squinting along can be enough to deter from the perfect picture. One other bad side to note is that if the photographer is not far enough away their shadow can appear in the photograph, care must be taken to avoid this as much as possible. This can create rich colors if it is done property, just takes a bit of work to master using this direction to the advantage of the photographer.
Side Lighting -Side lighting is great for creating pockets of contract that emphasize texture and contours. This is great for some patterns and textures, however is not great for everything. In landscapes, it is wonderful since it will create long shadows, which give a sense of depth. For landscapes, especially this tends to be a very pleasing appearance that is wonderful.
Back Lighting -This is the light that comes from directly behind your subject. For people this will usually render a silhouette, which depending upon the look you are trying to achieve can be wonderful. Using the back lighting can be very helpful for accenting certain features, and giving standard shots a completely different look. Some photographers enjoy working with silhouette style pictures, so back lighting is a wonderful medium for them to work with often. Contrast in photos is usually extreme, so you may want the subject to turn on a slight angle to reduce the amount of contrast.
As you can see from the different angles that light comes from it can have a huge impact on the final product of your photographs. Filters and other lighting equipment can help and assist in modifying the light from each direction into something easier to work with, however results are not guaranteed. Enjoy working with each different direction so you can see for yourself how the different directions affect the style pictures that you prefer.