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Light - The most important aspect of photography

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Since 26 Oct, 2012
Accessed 7 years ago
Light - The most important aspect of photography
Mon, 12/10/2012 - 16:27 (updated 7 years ago)

Beginning photographers often think in terms of photographing objects such as mountains, trees, or people, experienced photographers know that they are  merely recording the light reflected off those objects. Without good light, even the most compelling subject won’t make for an interesting photograph.


Natural light comes in four basic varieties: soft light, front-light, sidelight and backlight. To make effective images, you must match your subject with the most appropriate illumination.


Softlight -

the kind of light found on an overcast day or when the scene is completely shaded. Soft light works best for colorful subjects. While direct sunlight emphasizes the contrast between light and dark, soft light heightens color contrasts, and can emphasize subtle tints that would be lost in the sun. Soft light can also visually simplify complex subjects, such as forest scenes, where bright sun and shadow would produce photographs that are too busy and contrasty.  


- For colorful subjects, the next best thing to soft light is low front light created by positioning the sun at your back. Since most of the shadows will fall behind your subject, the scene becomes evenly illuminated by the sun and color contrasts predominate. But use this method selectively. Front light can look flat and uninteresting when the sun is high or when there is no color in the subject.  

Sidelight -

With the sun coming from your left or right, is great for bringing out the texture of subjects. Since sidelight strikes one side of your subject while leaving the opposite side in shadow, it automatically creates contrast. It is therefore a good choice subjects lacking color or for black and white photography. The closer the sun is to the horizon the more dramatic the effects of sidelighting will be.  


Created when the sun is positioned behind your subject which also creates deep contrast between highlights and shadows. Translucent subjects like leaves, flowers feathers and waterfalls will seem to glow with an inner light when the sun shines through them from behind. Backlight can be used to create striking silhouettes. Place an interesting shape against a lighter background, like the sky, for an engaging profile. Whenever you point your camera toward the sun, be sure to use a lens hood to shade your lens to prevent flare. 

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