Artistic Photography – Light

Simple rules for Artistic Photography

All artists use raw materials to work with and create a piece of art. For example a painter needs brushes, paints and canvas to make a painting. Artistic Photography is not an exception. Light is one of the raw materials that photographers use. A photographer needs to understand the light and use it in an artistic way.

Artistic Photography can be very simple!

The word photography has its origin in the old Greek, meaning Painting With Light, which is an excellent way of describing what we do. I always use the analogy in my workshops that our canvas is camera media (film or digital), our paint is light and exposure works as our brushes!

Light makes artistic photography possible

Given that light is the single most important element in artistic photography, it’s astonishing how few photographers pay any real attention to it.

Most of the time we’re so eager to press the shutter release that we don’t really give it a second thought. You can have the best camera, lenses and accessories in the world, but unless you have an understanding of the role of light you won’t get very far. Without the correct exposure and knowledge of light nature you cannot produce artistic pictures.

Understanding Light is important for Artistic Photography 

In the same way other artists fully appreciate their raw materials, photographers have to learn to work with light to be successful. In this tutorial we will look at the ways daylight can vary, what lighting type is more suited for our desired subject and how we can make the best of the light we already have.

1- Bright Sunny Day:

Early morning or late afternoon provide nice directional shadows which help you create the third dimension in your images.

If you are shooting landscapes, these times contribute to a golden light with very good contrast and colour.

If you shoot portraits (people) you can be confident that this light is very flattering (ie: no harsh shadows under the eyes, etc) and can concentrate more on how to pose your subjects and make them feel comfortable.

Golden hour photography

directional light
Directional light in landscape photography and a low perspective created a dynamic image

Golden hour Portrait photography

Artistic Photography
Directional light helps creativity

2- Mid Day Sunny days:

Midday: It’s recommended to avoid midday sunshine, as the light is too harsh, resulting in faded colours as well as excessive contrast and deep shadows. If you have to shoot at midday, consider using some kind of light modifiers such as reflectors or flashes.

Avoid Mid Day Photography

Mid day photography
Avoid Mid day photography. It is very difficult to be artistic!

Avoid Mid Day Portrait Photography

Mid day light
Hash shadow and bright light ruin the portrait. Try to use light modifiers.

3- Overcast Light:

This is perfect soft light for portrait photography. A bright overcast day creates magical light for photographers and allows plenty of control over the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture to capture the details that you are after.

Overcast light is not very pleasing in Landscape pictures, as the shadows and colours are faded. If you have to take landscape photos in overcast days, enhance the saturation for best result.

Over cast light is perfect for portraits

By using a telephoto for portrait, you make the background out of focus and compress the scene
By using a telephoto for portrait, you make the background out of focus and compress the scene

Using Light Modifiers in over cast light

Over cast light
By adding a light modifier (reflector in this image) you can create a very pleasing fill light.

Over cast light in Landscape photography

Over cast light
Over cast light is not the best for landscape photography. Increasing the colour saturation helped in this photo.

Artistic Photography Series

In first article of ‘Artistic Photography’ series, we have learnt how our paints (the light) can dramatically influence our medium. Next up we’ll discuss our brushes (in this case: exposure). Stay tuned and make sure to join us for my next article about Exposure. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for upcoming tutorials and tips.

Ted and the Omnilargess Team

Omnilargess Photography Classes

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Check our upcoming classes and look for an advanced workshop to learn more about the quality of light and explore skills on how to manage the light. Our classes are small size with lots of hand ons.

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