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The Importance of Good Light

Written by Tim on . Posted in Lighting

Light plays a major part of photography. In fact, some people call photography “painting with light”, while some others don’t. I was talking to a co-worker one day about photography and how photography has come a long way. We eventually got into the topic of light, and the part it plays in this day and age of digital photography.

How Important is Good Light?

Good light makes good photos, plain and simple. I would say that for a photo to draw a viewer in, the light contained in the photo must be stunning. I’d say light, good light, accounts for more than 65% why a photo is great. It’s because of the light.

Has Digital Changed The Way We See Light?

So I got to thinking… is the search for good light being ignored more so now, in the digital era, than back when there were only film cameras? It seems to me that is the case. This is of course just my opinion, but if you think about it, using a film camera kind of forces you to think harder about your exposure and actually look for good light. Digital seems to have taken the “pre-visualization” away.

I’m not saying digital is bad or that film is better. In-fact, I wouldn’t even blame one medium or the other. It’s our faults, really, because one could use a digital camera just like a film camera. Digital cameras just make it easier to take pictures. And in-turn, that seems to make us, myself included, not pay attention to good light and the lighting situation as much as we often should.

Basically what I’m trying to say, is it seems the way we look at the world through a digital camera makes us ignore light more often than we would if we’d be using a film camera.

Digital cameras allow one to take photos like a machine-gun, blindly snapping pic after pic. Sure, not every digital photographer is like that and I certainly don’t mean to bash or insult those who shoot “shotgun style” but most of the time their photos are average to below average. And they wonder why The Importance of Good Light

What is “Good Light”?

Here are a few photos of mine that (in my opinion) have good light:

The Importance of Good Light

Shot with: Nikon D7000 and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Lens

The Importance of Good Light

Shot with: Nikon D7000 and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Lens

The Importance of Good Light

Shot with: Nikon D300 and Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens

The Hunt For Good Light

I know one thing, I am going to look for good light more than ever now. I’m going to look for it even when I’m not shooting. I’m going to start paying more attention to the way light reacts, and study the physical properties of it so I can better understand the wonderful creation God as given us.

  • How does light look when refracted off bright colored walls?
  • What materials make light scatter in all directions?
  • Why does that building not reflect light how I imagined?
  • How could I control the light I see with my camera?
  • When does natural light look best, and why?

These are just a few questions I’ll ask myself when I go out shooting. And I’ll even ask myself these questions about light even when I go for a walk, go out to dinner or go for a ride my bike.

Recommended Resources

A good book that helps a lot with how light reacts to certain materials is called “Light Science and Magic” and it’s helped me improve my studio lighting skills a lot. It teaches you how some objects and materials have different ways of modifying light, and how light reacts. It’s a really awesome book and I recommend it.

Another book is the one every photographer should own, if they don’t already own it, called “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson. Bryan shows you in a very easy-to-understand way how to get the correct exposure. Not just the “correct”, but “creatively correct” exposure. Meaning, not all “technically perfect” exposures are going to look good. He shows you how to get creative and explore light in different ways.

Want Feedback? Add Your Photos or Thoughts

I can give you some feedback on lighting situations below. Add a photo in the comments below and I’ll reply with some feedback on it. Whether it’s good, bad or awesome The Importance of Good Light

Do you look for good light? If so, how? Add your thoughts and comments below and let’s get a discussion going.

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