Light Matters


Light Matters
This section is about the qualities of light. This is an absurdly wide and deep topic to address in 10 little web pages, but you gotta start somewhere. Understanding light is one factor that separates average from great photographers.
(I do not consider myself a great photographer; I just know that understanding light is essential to being one.)

hard light vs soft light

Hard Light vs Soft Light
This is the first thing I look for whether I am setting up a studio shot or shooting in available light.

See hard light and soft light.

direction of light

Direction of Light
Right after hard versus soft light I look at what direction the light is coming from. On this page you can move the light around the subject.

Experiment with direction.


Reflectors are a major tool in controlling and shaping light, whether they are expensive professional devices or just white cardboard.

Reflect on reflectors.

direction and diffusion

Direction AND Diffusion
We look at more examples of direct (hard) light versus diffused (soft) from different directions.

Go see.

bounce or diffuse

Bounce or Diffuse?
You can soften light by bouncing it off a surface, like an umbrella, or by shining it through plastic or fabric or other diffuser. Which method?

Some answers.


Sunlight: the Most Difficult Light of All
Many amateurs shoot only in sunlight; many professionals never do, or only by taking measures to soften the look.

The problem with sunlight.


Whether you create them or they just show up shadows, (lack of light) are a way of life in photography. We look at some ways to think about shadows.

Above, at, or below.


Backlight explores what can happen when the main light source is behind the subject. Backlight has been surprisingly effective, so I gave it a page of its own.

Let's hear it for backlight.

color balance

Color Balance
Our eyes are SO good at adapting to any old light source that it is often a shock that the camera has little of this ability.

About color balance.

colored light Colored Light
Whether you find it or create it, strongly colored light can produce strong images, along with garish disasters.

Colored light.