Light Someone recently asked me which was more important to producing a good photograph, light or a quality lens. The answer is simple, but not always obvious. With a poor lens and a good light a photographer can produce a worthwhile picture. With bad light and the best lens / camera combination, it is much more difficult to come up with a final product that satisfies the shooter.
The very word “photo” comes from the Greek for light. What photographers do is understand the effect of light on a subject, they manipulate light through the use of flashes, reflectors, snoots, softboxes, they measure light with meters and in camera, and they turn light to their advantage.
To understand the use of light you can read any number of books or articles by masters like Joe McNally. While we snappers might never produce something of that quality, if we start to understand how light can be used to our advantage then we can’t help but become better photographers.
The pictures below are from a lighting course I took at a local college. We spent 10 evenings on lighting under the tutorship of an experienced commercial and fashion photographer. We studied how the camera sees light, how to expose for snow or black, how to use light to emphasise texture, how to use fill flash, a vital introduction to how light works and how to shape it.
Using sidelighting to emphasise texture
Backlighting, used to produce edging highlights
And top-down lighting…