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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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