The Elements of Effective Photographs

The message of light


From:

The Elements of Effective Photographs

with Natalie Fobes

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Video: The message of light

The scientific definition of light is "electromagnetic radiation that has a wavelength in a range from 4000 to 7700 angstroms and may be perceived by the normal unaided human eye." But does that really describe the beauty and wonder of light we experience? Does it take into account how our moods are affected by light? It tells us nothing of why we sometimes describe light as sweet or caressing.
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Watch the Online Video Course The Elements of Effective Photographs
1h 36m Beginner Aug 30, 2011

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In this course, Pulitzer-nominated photographer Natalie Fobes takes viewers into the studio and on location to explore the many elements that combine to make an effective photo.

The course explores compositional elements that guide a viewer's eye, including the rule of thirds; leading lines, patterns, and curves; and depth of field. Natalie then details the roles of color and light in a photo. She shows how to work with the natural light in a room or outdoor location, and how to enhance it using reflectors, newspapers, a T-shirt, or whatever might be handy. She also shows some simple indoor lighting setups that can replicate the look of natural light.

The course continues with a look at movement and how a photographer can convey a sense of motion by blurring part of the image or freezing a fast-moving subject. Next, Natalie explores the concepts of peak action and the decisive moment—those split seconds that capture the essence or emotion of a subject or scene. The course wraps up with a discussion of the roles of planning and research in creating effective photos.

Subject:
Photography
Author:
Natalie Fobes

The message of light

The scientific definition of light is "electromagnetic radiation that has a wavelength in a range from 4000 to 7700 angstroms and may be perceived by the normal unaided human eye." But does that really describe the beauty and wonder of light we experience? Does it take into account how our moods are affected by light? It tells us nothing of why we sometimes describe light as sweet or caressing.

Photography is poetry with light. Our cameras capture the light that dances off the subject in front of us. We can choose to leave it natural or manipulate it. We can even create it. These choices are based on the mood that you want to set with your lighting. Here are few principles of light: contrasty light creates a somber serious mood; even lighting creates a happier feel; flat lighting minimizes features; and side lighting can add depth.

Sometimes the lighting is so interesting that it just pulls you in. It poses a question. No matter if you're photographing people or landscapes, think about what kind of lighting message you want to send. Take a look at this photograph I did over in Russia. I love the light. The message of her expression and the message of the light is the same. This one I took just a few seconds later. She has a beautiful smile and the light is still beautiful, but does it work as well? I don't think so.

The message of her expression and the message of the light conflicts. Here are a few more examples. I photographed this Native American drummer in the longhouse before a ceremony. The beautiful shaft of light in his expression creates a thoughtful and serious photograph. The message is clean and this one is too. This little six year old is celebrating her birthday. The even lighting accentuates the happy expression on her face.

So the next time you're composing a photograph, ask yourself if the message of the lighting and the message of the photograph is the same. If it isn't, you need to adjust your lighting. In the next few videos, we will show you some basic lighting techniques that will help you develop your lighting message.

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