Photographs are made from light. Light is our main ingredient. A good photographer is a student of light. Here are a few things to consider about light.
In any given situation there is an amount or intensity of light. This amount can be measured with a light meter. Most photographers use the meter in their camera to measure the amount of light in a situation they are photographing. The volume of light entering a camera is controlled by f stop, shutter speed and iso and together, how these are set determines exposure. If you are using strobes, flash, hot lights or some kind of tungsten light source, you can control the amount of light by moving the light closer or farther away from your subject, increase the output of your lighting device, or putting some kind of diffusion material in between the light and your subject. If the sun is your light source, the amount of light can be controlled by the time of day you shoot, flash fill, diffusion material between your subject and the sun to cut down the amount of light ( and soften the light ), gobos ( a black panel or any sheet of material that blocks or reduces the light falling on a subject ) and reflectors can add light by bouncing light back onto the subject.
The relationship of the camera to the subject and the angle of the main light to the subject will be a major factor in the effect of a given lighting set up. Does your main light come from below or the side or behind, each will have a very different effect.
Light has a range of colors depending on the light source. Tungsten has an orange color, fluorescent has a green color, sun light at the end of the day is often very warm (heavy towards orange and yellow), while light in shade and on over cast days is very blue. Check out the color sections of this site for a more detailed discussion of color.
Main light-Fill Light
Typically a photograph will be lit primarily with a dominant ‘main’ light source and with secondary light sources acting as fill light. The main light source might be the sun, a flash, a strobe, a light bulb, a street light, the sun bouncing off a reflector or a white wall. The main light source is the strongest contributing light. Some times there could be 2 or more light sources contributing with equal intensity. Secondary light contributes, filling in shadows and reducing the overall contrast. Fill light can come from many sources, light bouncing off a nearby white building, flash who’s out put is less than the main light, reflectors, available ambient light, a second light.
The bigger the source of light, the softer the quality of light. A softer light source seems to wrap around the subject. Softer light gives less contrast, and is often considered a gentler – kinder light, usually preferred by portrait photographers. A smaller light source is more contrasty, with harder and darker shadows.The farther alway any light source is, the harder the light becomes and higher the contrast produced with hard edged shadows. While the sun is the biggest source of light in our world, it is also the farthest away, making it a small/hard source of light. Shooting with direct sun light is very hard to do at mid day due to the harsh, glaring, constrasty quality of light. Dark shadows, eye socket shadows and high light blow out (a.k.a. clipping) are all common dangers. Like Nancy Reagon said, ‘just say no’ (to bad light). If you can, move your subject into the shade if you have to shoot in the middle of the day. The shade will lower contrast and give a more pleasing light for most subjects. Direct sun light at the beginning and end of the day is easier to use and provides a better light for many subjects. The Magic Hour is the 15-20 minutes after the sunsets. Cinametographers love this light and often you will see movies and TV use this time of day.
From the Greek words photos (light) and graphos (drawing).
Photography is the process of creating images by capturing light on a light-sensitive medium, like film or a digital sensor.
hard or soft
direct or indirect
natural or unnatural
single source or multiple
different colors/temperatures – warm/cool
from different directions and angles in relation to the subject
removes shadows – open, revealing, uplifting, clean, clear, crisp
creates shadows – hides, mystery, scary, murky, dark
Light can be like a 3 dimensional object, taking on it’s own form and shape and becoming a compositional element it’s self.
Light has energy, gives drama, can suggest motion and can move the eye around a photograph.
Light has emotion: it’s color, direction, intensity and absence can create strong emotional impact when applied to different kinds of subjects.
Light creates contrast, reveals texture and form, giving two dimensional shapes depth and the appearance of three dimensional form.
Light changes things, makes and defines the visual experience of whatever it influences
Visual artists need to see and understand light as it travels and changes everything we see throughout our day