June 7, 2023

Photography is all about the light, but not all light is equal. There’s good light and bad light.

You would not believe the amount of times that people have turned on the room lights in an effort to help me. Room lights, yuck.

You might have guessed, room lights are usually the bad kind of light. When working I’ll either setup studio lights or manipulate the light from the window to avoid the awful ceiling lights. I’ll then have someone walk in and turn the lights on. “There you go”, or “that’s better” they’ll exclaim with a smile on their face. It’s not better, it’s worse. Much worse.

Most people understand that you need light to take a picture. They then translate this to mean the more light the better. It isn’t true and explains why so many DIY photographs on a company website look so bad. It’s because they’re using bad light instead of good light.

If you’re wondering what constitutes good light, here are a few of the easier things that can help with your next photography project.

Light Quality

Thinking about the desired look you might need to consider the quality of the light that you’re planning to use. Soft lighting or hard lighting. If you want that high contrast look with loads of shadows then it’s hard lighting for you. Or you might want to opt for a softer look. Choosing a soft light that is heavily diffused creating a nice gentle look with the light spilling over the subject.

That’s not to say that you won’t have any shadows with your soft lighting. If you do still want to incorporate shadows into your image then you might need to think about the direction of light.

Direction of Light

The direction of light has an impact on the look of the images. The direction of light can have an impact on the shadows in the image and how they impact the overall look of the photograph. Going back to those bad old ceiling lights – sitting in random place above the subject they tend to create ugly shadows in places that you don’t want to have shadows.

Colour Temperature

Light comes in different colour tones which has an impact on the image too. For example, the room lights might have a yellow hue, with blueish light spilling in from the window. These colours have an impact on the overall picture so if it’s not possible to balance the lights it’s often better to eliminate one of the light sources. Personally I would turn off the room lights and work with the daylight in this situation. If there is another day light spilling in through the window.

There are times when two different light colours look great but this is usually driven by a creative need and control of these colours is super important.

Controlling the Light

There’s a lot more to consider but thinking about these three basic points above will improve your images. The key though is control. Having control of all these factors is the crucial point because it gives you creative control of your images. You control the light to achieve a creative goal which means that you photographs will look less like snapshots and more like the creative output that you originally intended.

Written by Paul Tschornow

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