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4 Things Photographers Should Know About Light

When it comes to creating a perfect outdoor composition developing a better understanding of light is one of the best things a photographer can do to prepare. When you understand the different elements of natural light how they affect photos and how to accommodate/manipulate them you’ll be much better equipped to position yourself and adjust your settings to achieve the picture you have in mind.

Getting started you need to understand that all light has four essential characteristics:

  1. Direction

    First of all, you have to consider where your light is coming from. When you’re outdoors this may seem obvious- you’d think to argue it’s just coming from wherever the sun or moon is located. But it’s not always that simple. Say you’re photographing during the evening for example-your light sources will be multiplied.

    There might be street lights store signs lit up the moon a multitude of different light sources all of which you need to notice and consider.Additionally if you’re working midday and it’s cloudy the sun no longer acts as a sole source. The clouds diffuse that light making its main direction less if not completely impossible to trace.

  1. Intensity

    Intensity refers to the relative strength of the light.

    This varies according to the output of the light source (Is it an especially bright, sunny day?).

    Intensity will also always depend on the distance between the source and the object it’s illuminating (you taking an edgy nighttime portrait of a skateboarder in a parking lot they stand directly beneath a street light Or maybe a bit further away).

  2. Quality

    Have you ever heard photographers describe light as being soft or hard.

    Direct light is hard and it creates a great deal of contrast in your image. This kind of light isn’t always the most common choice for portraits for example in which many photographers are just trying to emphasize beauty. However it is a common pick for a bold, outstanding landscape.

    Diffused light (like light coming through clouds on cloudy days) on the other hand is soft and it reduces or eliminates shadows.

  3. Color

    The final element of light worth considering is its color- and not all light looks the same.

    Light varies in color depending on its source and on any substances through which it passes. Natural sunlight, for example has a very different look than your camera’s flash, to make one comparison.

In strobe light photography the best lighting for photography is to have two light sources on each side the camera 45-degrees between being a straight-on light source and a sidelight when you are taking portraits. This placement produces a soft shadow and depth while leaving out harsh dark shadows.

“The most important element of a good photo is the ability of the photograph to communicate with the viewer. It should be able to tell a story through its composition, lighting, and most importantly its subject matter.

The best time of day to take portrait photos is in the couple hours after sunrise and the couple hours before sunset. Within that time it is better to shoot after the morning golden hour or before the evening golden hour.

5 Lighting Tips to Improve Your Photography
  1. Use a broad light source. The broader the light source, the softer the light coming out of it.
  2. Use front-lighting judiciously. Front-lighting is known to suppress the texture of your foreground, thereby de-emphasizing it.
  3. Include shadows for a three-dimensional look. 
  4. Keep color temperature in mind while shooting.