Light in Photography

Now we are going to talk about the number one thing in photography: light. Light is fundamental in photography. There is not photography without light. Without light you simply have a black canvas. In fact, the word photography is the combination of two Greek word roots, one being φωτός (phōtos) which refers to “light” and γραφή (graphé), which is associated with “drawing”. So photography is something like “drawing with light”.

In photography, it is common to see people looking for a place to take a picture and say something like “Oh, look at that nice wall” or “look at that window; we will take a picture there” but hardly “Oh, look at that light; let’s take a picture there”. Many people don’t focus on lighting, which should also be a priority.

In order to control something you need to know enough about it and the same goes with light. If you want to control light in your pictures, learn about light. You don’t need to know the science behind it, but some basics is a good start.

In this section you will learn some of these basics that will help you to recognize, categorize, and manipulate light in such a way that you will be so surprised how powerful a couple of simple applied principles can improve your pictures.

Light is a topic itself and books have been written just about light in photography. But in this course, I’ll omit a lot of the scientific and theoretical parts of light. I would only ask you to learn a few things about the characteristics of light.

Let us forget for a moment about all other aspects of photography, even whether a picture is beautiful or not, and let us focus only on light. Light has a degree of diffusion, direction, and color temperature. These three aspects of light can be the main pillars or foundations of your pictures as well as the most refined finishing touches. Let’s briefly talk about each of them, but please don’t overlook any of these because knowing it is what will separate you from many amateur photographers.

We will talk about these three things:

  1. Degree of Diffusion
  2. Direction
  3. Color Temperature (or White Balance)

Ready? Let’s start with degree of diffusion.


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