Photography Is A Recording Of Light
By Damien Andrews
Photography is all about lighting. In fact, photography is the act of making a recording of the available light during the time period that the shutter is open. Beginning and intermediate photographers often overlook the importance of lighting in deference to the subject, framing and camera angle. As we'll see, ignoring lighting in photography is a grave mistake that often leads to poor quality photographs.
The advent of easy color photography, unfortunately, put the importance of photography lighting in the back seat. Before the era of color photography, black and white photographers knew the critical importance of lighting their subject properly. The world renowned black and white nature photographer, Ansel Adams, would sometimes setup his large format camera and then wait days for the lighting to become perfect before he released the shutter to immortalize a scene.
To see how critical proper lighting is in photography, one only needs to take a look at a professional photographer's studio, a TV set or a movie location. There are lights everywhere, and yet only a few cameras. This is because the cameras are there merely to record the lighting, either for a moment, or a series of moments.
Good lighting in photography makes colors pop and breathes life into crisp, clear subjects. Good lighting in photography is the difference between a great portrait, and one with a subject that has sunken eyes, a pronounced nose or sharp cheekbones. Good photography lighting also ensures fine details in the final print – be it on paper, a slide or in pixels.
It would take volumes to adequately discuss all the elements of photography lighting. Natural lighting, tungsten lighting, fluorescent lighting, studio lighting, reflected lighting, fill lighting – and the list keeps going. And then there's the sibling of photography lighting – shadows. As a rule, shadows are not desirable, but they can also add potent drama to an otherwise drab subject. Again, space prohibits complete discussion of that topic.
Here are a few photography lighting basics that will help you take better photographs. But in the end, remember what Ansel Adams said: "There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs."