We’re taught all about the different types of light, but do we think enough about the aesthetic influences it has on our photographs? Murray White investigates in the current issue of Better Photography.
"How often do we hear the revelation: ‘Well, that puts things in a new light’? By admitting that an alternative reality is probable through a change of apparent circumstances, we assign a particular value to that new information. In most uses of the phrase, ‘new light’ is merely a metaphor implying further knowledge. And so it is photographically, except that our use of light can literally reveal as much or as little subject knowledge as we wish to convey.
Many photographers believe that lighting is central to a successful image, a building block so foundational that without its divine influence, an otherwise sound composition may crumble. In a sense they are right – lighting in some form is vital to the physical creation of a photograph, but what defines the effectiveness or otherwise of that light? Is there a particular quality of light that is an essential component of a compelling image?
"To the latter question, I think that the answer is no, but that rebuttal comes with an overwhelmingly significant caveat attached: it is the subject and your exposition of it that will determine those lighting qualities most appropriate. There is no universal light by which a photograph cannot fail to find a mesmerising luminosity, nor can it be said that for any subject, only lighting of a particular calibre is viable. I believe that any persuasive photograph must find a balance between subject and its interpretation using the most suitable light for that purpose. And even that assessment is fraught with uncertainty...
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