101 – What Is Photography

What Is Photography?

Yeah – damned good question, actually. What is photography – or, more accurately, what is it about?

If we look at the word “photography” and we look at its Greek entomology, it is composed of two words “phōtos”, meaning “light” and “graphè”, meaning “painting” or “writing” (Depending on which Greek pal you ask).  Photography is quite literally,  painting with light!

This is important.

Photography is not about a camera. It’s not about the lens. It’s not about a tripod or how much money you’ve paid for it. It’s certainly not about the megapixels, and it is most definitely not about the brand of camera you have. It’s not about your subject matter, your location, or your target audience. It’s not about composition and it’s not about beautiful models or exotic locations. It’s not about the photographer’s ego, experience, mindset, or bank balance (or lack thereof).

Photography is about one thing and one thing only: Light.

This is it. The simple adage that will help you understand the concept of photography: it’s about the light. Without light, there is no picture. It can be a lot of light, it can be hardly any light, but light is the heart and soul of this game. It’s all about the light. The best camera, the best lenses, the best skills mean nothing if there is no light. The quality of your image is directly proportional to the quality of your light.

Mastering the technical details of a camera is what I am teaching in these lessons. But mastering the light is what it’s about. This is a lifetime of study, and as with everything worth studying, the more you know, the more you realise how much there is to know.

I fell in love with light, and in my opinion, any good photographer should have the same obsession. If more people were as zealous about light as they are about their gear, we’d have much better photographers.

Amateurs talk about equipment, professionals talk about money, and masters talk about light.


In order for you to master photography, you need to understand that the job of a photographer is to master light.  To create, shape, bend and/or control light to your will, is what photography is about.  A camera is just a light-proof box with a lens at one end, a light-sensitive bit at the other, and some electronic fiddly bits in the middle.  Every camera ever made, from the basic pinhole cameras right in the beginning, right through camera phones, to modern digital SLRs, to the big medium and large format cameras, they all work the same way: light enters a light-proof box at one end and gets captured at the other.

Your job as a photographer is to understand how light works, how to use it, and how to create, capture, and shape it properly.  To simplify that concept even further:  the job of a photographer is to control and capture light.  These lessons will show you how.

A wee bit of history:

While the concepts of photography were described as far back as the 5th century BC, the general consensus is the person who “invented” photography was Frenchman Nicéphore Niépce in 1825. The concepts Niépce developed, is still very much in use today!

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on September 29 • by

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