Understanding Light

Light – the primary source of energy for the universe – is the central image of many religions and the photographer’s chief resource. The word “photography” derives from the Greek and means, literally, “light writing.”

From the relentless power of full sun over water to the beam from a single candle, it is light photographers play with, light in its many moods and manifestations that we capture on film.

However primitive or sophisticated your photography equipment, from a home-made pinhole camera to the most modern, totally-digital wonder, you, as photographer are striving to control, manipulate and exploit light.

Photography depends on light. Therefore, an understanding of light – what it is, how it behaves and how you can learn to use it – is essential to creating superlative photos.

Because the character and quality of a photograph can be altered by the character and quality of light, even the most-seasoned photographers puzzle over how a scene should be lit, what lighting angles to use for good results, and what exposure settings will bring out the best detail and tonal shading. When you are armed with the basic facts about light, you will find that such elementary questions become more easily-answered.

This section of explores what photographers need to know about that wondrous physical quantity, light, and shows how the photographer’s technical goal of a “good” negative, transparency or digital image file can be achieved while meeting the esthetic objectives of a superior photograph.

To explore further, please click on one of the links at the bottom of this page, where you will find such headings as What light is, How light behaves, and more.

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