Light in Photography
Greek word ‘Photo’ means ‘light’ and ‘graph’ means ‘drawing’. Light is called the language of photography. It is also the soul of photography. It speaks, suggests, guides through photographs. It suggests the time of day, the mood and temperament and tells whatever a photographer wants to tell. It reveals hidden textures, emphasizes a subject. To accomplish the purpose, the photographer should know how it is rendered artistically on their composition
The Color of Light: Light waves of color travels from the sun through our atmosphere, and we get it. As these light waves come through our dense atmosphere, the shorter wavelengths on the cool end of the spectrum get lost in atmospheric dust and water and cannot come to us. This makes the longer, warmer waves of light to infiltrate our atmosphere and light our subjects.
As the sun goes higher into the sky, it shines more directly through our atmosphere, allowing the shorter, cooler wavelengths for us, better balancing the color of the light. When the sun reaches directly overhead, for instance, in a clear day, it shows no color when cast onto a white surface.
As many nature photographers want the rich, warm colors of early and late light, they will wait until the time.
Reflected Light: It is a fact about light is that light colors reflect light, and dark colors absorb light. A great example of this fact is a person wearing black shirt in a beach environment. As the dark shirt absorbs light, the detail in the dark area will not be seen. Now think that you are photographing a dark rose. The light will be reflected, or bounced, back up to the rose, softly illuminating its underside. The degree of brightness here relies on the intensity of the sun and how close you are.
Indirect Light and Partial Light: Indirect light is light that has been blocked by clouds, fog, heavy rain, snow, smoke, mist, and other stuff of the atmosphere. This light is usually soft and diffused, minimizing or completely removing dark shadows. Many landscape and flower photographers shoot on overcast days as the colors appear more saturated and harsh shadows are kept to the least.
Partially blocked light is referred to as dappled or partial light and usually has some amount of shade. An instance of dappled light would be sunlight passing through the leaves of a tree, leaving spotted shadows on your subject. It is a good thing to anticipate the darkness of the shadows falling onto your subject to check if fill flash will be necessary to save some detail in those areas. To do this, throw your entire scene out-of-focus using the focusing ring on your lens. This breaks your scene down to shapes, values, and hues for easy inspection.
Front Light: Front light is when you project light from the front side. A good use for front lighting is when you have an image with a lot of color that doesn’t depend on depth and texture. In this case, the part of the subject to be photographed is facing the sun. If the light is bright, it can make your subjects flat and texture less in spite of exposure compensation efforts. Since front light creates few shadows on the subject, it is not very useful in creating a three-dimensional effect in your scene.
Sidelight: Sidelight is light that you project from either one side of a subject. It is helpful in setting off the texture of an object. It creates shadows and depth and gives the viewer a good sense of what the object might feel like, further enhancing the viewing experience. It works great when you have objects of varying textures on different planes. When shooting in sidelight, use a lens hood to avoid stray light creeping into your image.
Back-light: Back-lighting is often used to show a subject in a striking or unusual way. With back-lighting the sun is behind your subject and whatever is translucent in your scene will glow in the back-lighting.
When shooting back-lit, exposure composition and/or the use of fill flash may be required to properly expose your subject. Protect your vision by not looking directly into a bright sun through your lens. Lens flare can be cause a problem, so make sure to examine the highlights in your image carefully.
Top Light: Many nature photographers will avoid shooting when the sun is directly overhead. The sun is usually at its brightest and the light is its least colorful at this time. This angle could result in high contrast images with short, dark vertical shadows. It is wise to not rule out top light for all situations. There are times when it is useful such as when capturing abstract patterns and repetition in nature.
Artificial Light: If there is not enough available sunlight to illuminate a subject or scene, photographers often use flash to lend a hand. Flash can be used as main light, an additional source of light or as fill, which is termed as “fill flash.”
Using the flash as main light means that much of the scene is lit by the flash’s burst of light. Fill flash is used to fill in shadows or areas that would be rendered too dark without additional light. Examples of using fill flash are: bringing details out of deep shadows, as a supplementary light source for dark objects in soft light, lighting the dark side of a back-lit subject, and lighting the underside of a dark bird in flight. Some cameras will restrict the use of flash to the capabilities of the in-camera flash or, “pop up flash.” For better control over flash output many photographers will invest in a separate, more sophisticated flash unit.
Other Sources of Light: Some creative photographers use other sources of light to illuminate their subjects, such as: flashlights, candles, streetlights, firelight, and colored lights. These are artificial lights available for nature photography and you should read the manual for how they are safely used.