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Use of Light in Photography

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Lighting is a key factor in creating a successful image. Lighting determines not only brightness and darkness, but also tone, mood and the atmosphere. Therefore it is necessary to control and manipulate light correctly in order to get the best texture, vibrancy of colour and luminosity on your subjects. By distributing shadow and highlights accurately, you can create stylized professional looking photographs.

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As visual artists and photographers, when we hear or read a reference about the “quality” of light, we may ask, “What exactly does that mean?” Visual artists (painters, sketch artists, sculptors, photographers) can talk about light at length, but a consensus on just what constitutes “good light” or “bad light” can be elusive. The short, if not nebulous, answer to this question is that the quality of light may mean different things to different photographers and perhaps hold a different meaning at different stages in their discovery process. The truth is that there may not always be a “best” quality of light that is applicable to all situations or cherished by all photographers. In the creation of a landscape photograph, I approach the quality of light with two interrelated properties in mind: the directionality and the color temperature. Why these two properties? The directionality of light determines the all-important quality of *shadows*, the *contrast*, and the *textures* in the landscape. Shadows, in turn, are what create depth, shape, and dimension in the scene and may also confer a provocative mood and emotion to the photograph.

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In The Miracle of Analogy (2015) — the first of a two-volume history of photography by the American writer Kaja Silverman — the well-trodden notion that sees the photograph named as an indexical or representational thing is replaced with a description of the photographic image as the linguistic and literary form of analogy. Instead of the photograph offering meaning through memoriam or remembrance — as an image that traces linear time from past to present to future — Silverman’s photography is trapped between similarity with the real world and ontological difference to it. Profoundly, the photograph is an ‘authorless and untranscendable thing’ that structures Being. She quotes Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1902) in order to expand her definition of this “in-between” state of photography, and thus makes a second allusion to things literary. Silverman’s Whitman-like photography is ‘spherical’, ‘grown’, ‘ungrown’, ‘gaseous’, ‘watery’; tied between being all lives and all deaths; all civilisations and all languages — both human and computational — across all time.

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Usually reflected light is a tool that photographers use to avoid glare in photos. You can adjust the angle of the light so that it creates the exact look that you want. Moving the light closer and further away from your subject will change the quality of the shadows and create a different atmosphere for your photograph. Many photographers who specialize in taking portraits prefer the control that they have when they use reflected and diffused lighting instead of sunlight.

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Silverman, K. The Miracle of Analogy or The History of Photography, Part 1. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015.

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Use of Light in Photography
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