UNDERSTANDING “LIGHT” IN PHOTOGRAPHY

THERE ARE MANY TYPES OF ART THAT RELIES ON A CERTAIN MEDIUM TO MAKE IT’S MARK IN THAT ART FORM.  FOR EXAMPLE, IN SCULPTING, MARBLE OR CLAY OR STONE IS THE IMPORTANT PART THAT IS THE MEDIUM FOR SCULPTING.  FOR THE PAINTER, IT IS OIL OR WATER.  BUT FOR PHOTOGRAPHY IT IS “LIGHT”.  THE BASIS OF ALL PHOTOGRAPHY IS LIGHT.  BUT WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT LIGHT IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND DO WE REALLY UNDERSTAND IT?  DO WE UNDERSTAND IT ENOUGH TO BE ABLE TO CREATE ART WITH LIGHT?  WELL THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO GO OVER IN THIS ARTICLE TODAY

 
UNDERSTANDING “LIGHT” IN PHOTOGRAPHY !
 

UNFORTUNATELY, IN TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPHIC WORLD, IT SEEMS LIKE THE ONLY THING PEOPLE WORRY ABOUT IS THE EXPOSURE.  THAT IS THE EXTENT OF THE KNOWLEDGE THEY THINK THEY NEED TO KNOW IN THE TERMS OF “LIGHT”.  AND TO A CERTAIN EXTENT, THAT IS AN IMPORTANT FACTOR.  WE DO NEED TO KNOW HOW MUCH LIGHT REACHES THE SENSOR IN THE CAMERA TO GET THE BEST PICTURE.  BUT THERE IS SO MUCH MORE WE COULD DO IF WE JUST LEARNED MORE ABOUT LIGHT.  AND THAT IS MY GOAL IN THIS ARTICLE TODAY.
 
I THINK THERE ARE 3 THINGS THAT ARE IMPORTANT IN UNDERSTANDING LIGHT:
 
  1. QUANTITY OF LIGHT:   That would mean that we are looking at the intensity of light on the subject.  The amount of light and the extent of light will determine the “attitude” of the art piece.
  2. QUALITY OF LIGHT:  This is a very important part of the masterpiece you wish to create.  Here you worry about the contrast, the proper color of light even comes in to play (and that can become a whole other subject).  This is where you get concerned when portraits play a big part.  Check out the portrait photographer.  His lights are a major key, and quality of his light is of utmost importance. 
  3. DIRECTION OF LIGHT:  This works in portrait photography as well as a good landscape photo.  In portrait work, you can learn about the types of lighting on faces and which is best, and the proper placement of the lights is so important.  In landscape photography, you can bet that the majority of good landscape photos are taken when the light is in the early morning or before sunset when the lighting is most extreme.  
 
NOW OF COURSE, I WILL BE THE FIRST TO BRING OUT THAT RULES CAN BE BROKEN IN THIS AS WELL AS THE COMPOSITION RULES…. BUT ONLY IF IT LOOKS BETTER.  THAT IS HOW YOU DETERMINE IF THE RULES SHOULD BE BROKEN:  IF IT LOOKS BETTER.  SO YOU CAN TAKE PHOTOS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY WHEN THE LIGHTING IS USUALLY NOT GOOD, IF IT WILL LOOK GOOD.
 
NOW LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT ONE MORE THING THAT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND AND THAT IS HOW TO SHOOT WITH NATURAL LIGHT.  THERE ARE SEVERAL DIFFERNT TYPES OF NATURAL LIGHT TO WORK WITH.  ALL WILL BE AN ARTISTS TOOL IF YOU UNDERSTAND WHEN AND HOW TO WORK WITH THEM:
 
  1. DIRECT SUNLIGHT:  This is when you have direct sunlight, shadows are very prominent, contrast is very harsh, but that might be the effect you want.  Before you go out to shoot, is that the effect you want? 

Notice in this photo that in this landscape photo, with direct sun, that the shadows are very pronounced, the photo has a very contrasty feeling…. but, this is what the artist wanted.  Learn to understand what direct light will do for you.
 
2-  DIFFUSED SUNLIGHT:  I actually like taking photos with diffused sunlight, but, maybe not full scenery shots.  Portraits are great with diffused sunlight, because there are no shadows or hardly any shadows.  Usually in this scenario, the sun has gone behind clouds. 

 

Notice that shooting portraits outside while you have diffused lighting, or the sun behind the clouds gives a very nice soft light on the subject.  The shadows are gone or nearly gone giving it a very pleasant feel to the portrait.  The only thing now you have to do is perfect your posing. 

 
(Photo by:  rockynook.com)
 
 
 

 

Now, like I was mentioning above, usually you don’t use diffused lighting too much with scenery, but, it can be done.  But, you don’t see it too much where it is a vast amount of landscape.  Usually contained to a smaller area.  But, I have seen some good full landscape photos that the rules were broken.  I like this one.  No shadows, and all the colors look really good.

 
( Photo courtesy of Pinterest)
 
 
 
3- FOG:  Fog and mist greatly reduces details and shadows and creates an enveloping type of light. It produces weaker colors. Particular care must be taken since this type of light tends to produce flare.  but there is something really touching about fog.  Everyone likes the effect that fog has in a picture.  It creates some kind of romantic feeling…OR   horror effect.  Depending on the picture.  A photographer friend of mine, lives in an area, where fog rolls in every morning, and she lives to capture the fog photos every morning, and captures the most beautiful photos I have ever seen.

Photo by Pamela Locke
 
Here Pamela is known as “The Fog Chaser”.  But the photos with the sunrise in the picture make the colors even more pronounced and yet create a mood in the photo.  I would think  that this type of photo would be hung on a lot of walls.
 
Next time you start taking photos, do more than just look at your exposure meter.  Look at the type of lighting you have.  Can you take advantage of the type of lighting you have.  When you go out on a photo shoot, whether it is landscape photography or portrait photography, think about the type of lighting you have today.  You will become a true artist if you understand the lighting you have to work with today.
 
 
 
 
Article written by:  Lanny Cottrell
For  123Photogo

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