Why do we light? Four things to keep in mind when lighting your photos.

Lighting Comments (3)

Lighting.  Why do we light?

We light objects/subjects/models for four reasons.

1) To illuminate.

Duh. Without light, there is no photo. Photography is quite literally the art of painting with light. It is not about the camera, the lens, the model, the makeup, that cute thing your cat does, your “vision” and artistic expression. Photography is about light. Full stop.

But this is where a lot of people end – they purely put light down do illuminate the subject, and they forget there is more to lighting than “mere” illumination.

2) Lighting gives shape and dimension.

Light gives shape and dimension to objects.

With a light, we can make a relatively flat object look round and “full”, and we can flatten out a round object to be utterly flat. And the problem is, most people over-light their subject and thus become “flat”. Highlight and shadow is what gives an object its shape. How light falls – and does not fall – on a subject will give it its shape. When placing your light(s), think about where the highlight are will be, and where the shadow area will be, and how these will emphasise the shape of your object.

3) Lighting creates drama.

Light Creates Drama

Lighting is an artistic, creative tool in your arsenal. It is a primary device in delivering your vision. How you place a light can give you feelings from light and airy, to deep and dramatic. Use your light to aid your “vision”.

4) Light makes people look where you want them to look.

Light makes you look

The eye is always attracted to the point of highest contrast in any image. Use your light to make people look at what you want them to look at. use it to create the point of contrast you want your audience to focus on.

Light is your primary tool as a photographer. Not your camera, not your lens, your light.

The quality of any image is directly proportional to the quality of your light.

How you work your light – be it artificial or natural, is what makes or breaks a photo. I would like to urge all photographers, especially the novices, to start thinking more about their light. How am I lighting this image? Why am I lighting it this way? what would happen if I put my light there instead of here? Asking critical questions regarding light, and using light to solve the problems and to make your vision real, will greatly enhance your photography.

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On Friday December 18 2015
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3 Responses to Why do we light? Four things to keep in mind when lighting your photos.

  1. Val Valentin says:

    Hi Gerry, I’m and old timer used to films, now I’m a beginner in the world of Digital everything. Do you know of an Open Forum for Canon Camera users? I believe there is one for Fuji Camera owners where they help you set up your camera and explain in plain language what the various functions are. I have a new Canon 7D mk2 and would like to set it but knowing what I’m doing.

    • Gerry says:

      Hi Val – offhand, no I do not know of any canon specific forums, but Facebook must have some, somewhere. However, the principles of photography are the same across all models, all brands, just the bells and whistles are different. As long as you understand the exposure triangle of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, all cameras work exactly the same. It’s like driving a car – some have the indicator stick to the left of the wheel, some to the right, but it does not matter, because the principle of driving is the same.

      All you need is to know the principles; for which side the indicator stick is on, your manual will tell you.

  2. […] of light – why light works, how it works, and how you can use light to your advantage.  In this blog post, I said that we light for four reasons: illumination, contrast, dimension, attention.  Light is a […]

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