Use of Light in Photography

The use of light in a photograph can be the deciding factor of whether that picture will be spectacular or terrible.

When you use your camera to automatically chose aperture and shutter speed, what your camera is actually doing is using the built in light meter and measuring how much light is being reflected to the camera.

But that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it. You should also think about the angle of the light entering the frame, what kind of shadows you want, and whether you want to use fill-in-flash (using flash to light the subject if you have a really bright background).

If you are shooting at night you can create all sorts of cool effects like lights in motion, pictures with moonlight, or silhouettes like the one shown here. The following are just some examples of all the possibilities.

© Dimitry Laudin
© Dimitry Laudin

The angle of light should be taken into careful consideration whenever you feel like you want to create a specific effect. Shadows can be very powerful when cast over half of someone’s face. In this photo on the left the light is striking the statue’s face from the rear right of the camera and this adds more depth to the picture. It also adds more coloring because if front-lighting was used his face would likely be over exposed, and if back-lighting was used his face would just be black like a silhouette.

The effect of rays of light indoors and outdoors. can be very spectacular. A brilliant part of some great photographs is the ability to see actual rays of light. Whether it be in the setting of a brilliant sunset, light pouring through a window or from artificial lights it can look very impressive. Usually the only way to obtain something like this is a narrow aperture (high f/stop) and a very slow shutter speed.

Silhouettes are another interesting example of using light. The way to create a silhouette is to have significantly brighter light coming from behind the subject. In doing this it is important to take your camera light reading off of the background instead of the subject in order for the camera to adjust for an exposure based on the backlight..

If you keep experimenting with different ways of using light you will find that you can get very interesting results.

by Richard Schneider