Photo Art: Light (3 in a Series)
By Joseph Poulshock, PhD
BeeOasis Step 2
It was a grey and cloudy day. But now, the setting sun shines kindly from below the clouds. For a few moments, the flowers and faces around you glow. The light is soft, warm, and gentle. It is an ideal time of day for taking pictures. The light is coming from the side. The shapes in your photos are deep and attractive. But this special light will only last for a few minutes. Now is your chance to capture some rich images when the light is best.
Light is the basic element in all photos. The light affects how we see our subjects. Sunny light, cloudy light, and indoor light all bring different colors. To take good pictures, we need to watch what the light is doing. In Part One of this series, we looked at photo composition. In Part Two, we learned ways to frame pictures as we take them. Now in Part Three, we focus on light. Though light is silent, it has a voice that points the way to beauty.
Of course, you can enjoy light any time of day. But pay attention to the direction of the light. Is it coming from the front, back, side, or above? Front lighting sends shadows to the back, and this can focus the eye on the front of the image. Side lighting creates long shadows. Photographers say that side lighting adds more shape and texture to pictures. Back lighting can create highlights and silhouettes (a dark shape and outline of your subject).
Working with light can be challenging. For example, bright light during the middle of the day can be hard to work with. It can be harsh and make people narrow their eyes. Don’t be afraid to move around and find the best place for your shot. Experiment with different directions of light. Play with the light, shapes, and shadows, and try to create lines and frames with them. Shadows can help frame your subject or create lines of motion for the eye to follow.
In low light, many people like to use a flash, but photographer Harry Benson doesn’t like flash. He says, a flash “tends to control and take over the photo.” A flash can give your subjects red eyes, and faces are usually too bright and washed out. Many modern digital cameras work well in low light, so here’s some good advice about flash in low light. Use it only when you have to.
Light sources create colors, lines, and shadows. Each kind of light creates a different mood and tone. Listen to the light and follow it. It is calling you to your subject. As you follow the light, it can lead you to see amazing things. Be aware and look for the right light. If you are ready, you may catch a lasting memory and a work of photographic art.