Bite Size Tips: Understand These Concepts of Light for Better Photographs

By Dahlia Ambrose / October 20, 2017

As photographers, we should all know that without light, there is no photography. Photography is nothing but capturing light that is reflected off objects and the colours that we capture depend on the colour of light that is reflected by those objects.

There are no real light hacks.

In order to create beautiful photographs, you NEED to understand light.

This ranges from ‘how it works' and ‘how it can be altered' using various means to get the perfect image. It all comes down to careful observation and planning before you press the shutter button.

Image by RondellMelling shows beautiful, diffused light from a large light source.

If you Understand Light, you'll Possess the Ability to Shoot Amazing Photographs

There are some important characteristics of light that are basic factors determining how an image will look.

The Harshness or Softness of Light (Quality) 

A very small light source can produce harsh light whereas a large source of light can produce soft light. How far the subject is from the light source is also a factor to consider. Diffusing light helps to soften harsh light.

photo by stupak artem – Harsh midday sunlight tends to throw very harsh and undesirable shadows in portrait photographs.

The Direction of Light

Shining a light source straight onto a subject will make the image look flat with no defined shape or textures or shadows, whereas illuminating your subject from an angle can account for some interesting shadows, textures, and shapes that can create a dramatic effect or mood to your image.

photo by simon wijers – an example of side lighting

Be creative in adjusting the direction of light.

The Type of Light Source

Light sources can be either natural or artificial. Natural light is the sunlight, the moonlight, light from stars, etc. whereas artificial lights can be bulbs, candles, speed lights and any light that is manmade.

Each of these affects the way an image looks.

The Color or Temperature of Light

The sun which is a natural source of light has different colors at different times of the day. Similarly, indoor and other artificial lights produce different color cast on images thereby creating a different mood to the images.

You can use gels indoors if you need to alter the color of light.

Understanding the above factors relating to light and taking the effort to practice this can take you to the next level when it comes to photography.

If you REALLY want to significantly make jumps in your photography and take the next steps required to become a better artist, check out Understanding Light – a pro guide, aimed at ALL photographers.


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About the author

Dahlia Ambrose

Dahlia is a physicist and self taught photographer with a passion for travel, photography and technology. She can sometimes get obsessed trying new photography techniques and post processing styles using Lightroom or Plugins in Photoshop. She occasionally writes articles on topics that interest or provoke her. You can check out her photography on Instagram, 500px and Flickr

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