What Makes a Great Photograph Part One - Light

February 12, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

THE IMPORTANCE OF LIGHT IN PHOTOGRAPHY

In my last blog I spoke about the 3 things that I felt were the making of a great photograph, light/composition/emotion. Today I'm going to focus on LIGHT.

Light is everything. The job of a photographer is to capture light and record it, whether on paper or in a digital format. As the photographer, you have the power to control the amount, intensity and duration of light required to make a picture. Light comes in different forms, Natural Light and Artificial Light. Each of these will have a different effect on your photograph, not only that, the direction in which the lighting is coming from also has a huge influence on the end result. 

Lets have a closer look at the different forms of light and some of the things you may want to consider when taking your next shot.

 

Natural Light

The shot below was taken in the library of a beautiful manor house, the room itself was full of dark furniture and large dark oppressive, but impressive bookcases, so light was at a premium. It did however have some beautiful large windows directly behind my position and so I decided to rely solely on the light that they provided and by ensuring all the guys in the shot were positioned facing the windows I was able to produce an image that was evenly lit throughout.

 

Best Men

 

When using natural light from a window or other light source it may also be worth considering using a reflector to bounce the light onto the model/subject. A reflector can be made quite simply using a piece of white card and some tinfoil. Cut the card to a size suitable for your subject and then wrap the opposite side with tinfoil. This will give you a double sided reflector offering two different tones of light.

Reflectors are particularly useful when you don't wish to compromise your shooting position or the background and for reducing excessive shadows.

Another thing to consider with natural light is the time of day, especially when shooting landscapes. If you've read any photography books you'll have heard about the golden hours at sunrise and sunset when the sun is low in the sky and produces a nice warm light and shadows that provide depth and drama.

I took the shot below just after sunrise when the sun was casting long shadows and bathing everything in a beautiful golden glow.

 

 

Artificial Light

When using Flash or any other artificial light source, such as a desk lamp or studio lights, it's important to consider the direction in which you wish the light to come from as this will have a huge impact on the final image. The examples below show a simple pot of pencils shot from directly in front with the flash on top of the camera and then again with the flash off camera to the left side. By simply moving the direction of the light source we have created two very different images. The first is very evenly lit, bright and colourful but possibly lacking in depth, whilst the second has dramatic shadows and depth and all that's changed is the direction of the light source.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope that gives you a slightly better understanding of the importance of light in your photography and some things that you can do to control it and it's effect on your photographs.

Next time I'll be covering Composition, what is composition, why is it so important and what tools are there to help?


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