In Autodesk Maya it allows you to add lighting into the scene to give your 3D models an extra bit of depth. There is different lighting techniques so i will write about them in this post.
Direct light is light that comes straight from the source.
Indirect light is light that hits a surface of an object and reflects off that said object. However the light that has been reflected is normally weaker, because some of the light is absorbed by the surface. The surface type can come into play, because some are more reflective than others.
Point light is light that is given off in all directions form a certain point. This light has similar characteristics to a light bulb.
Directional lights emits light in a certain direction and the light rays are the same. This light can be used for sunlight and other types of light. The image below shows off Directional light in an amazing way. The game below is Skyrim.
Spot light is one of the best lights because it allows you to control most of their attributes. Spot lights are cone shaped and that will allow you to set a certain angle and you can scale the size of the cone.
Area lights emit light from one specific area. They are quite useful for light that is shining through something like a window.
Ambient light can be used to simulate bounced light from all angles in one scene. This is a short cut, but it could make your scene look a bit jagged.
Depth Map Shadows:
Depth Map Shadows are the cheapest and quickest to render shadows. And this works by baking the light onto an image.
Light linking allows certain light light to effect a certain objects. This will allow you to manually light the scene the way you think is best.
Three Point Lighting:
Three point lighting is were you have three lights and they all have a certain role to play. So one could be the Key Light, the other could be the Background Light and the third one could be the Fill light.