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Seeing the Light

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Seeing the Light … Now, this is most important.
Do I have your full attention?

Photography derived from the Greek photos- for “light” and -graphos for “drawing” is the art, science, and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film, or electronically by means of an image sensor. Yeh, yeh! Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.  Write that down somewhere and now we can get back to reality.

Light sculpts, that’s it. It gives the shape and form to everything we see, without the light there would be no visual form. How light falls onto, wraps around and interacts with objects depicts how we see those objects. I think therefore it goes almost without saying that we must be in tune with seeing and understanding this light in order that we develop our true way of seeing.

Light reveals and effects colour saturation. Light has a temperature that we can measure. Light travels faster than anything else. Light gives life. Light is therefore pretty darn cool right? Wrong, sometimes it’s warm 😉 We should respect it and take the time to understand it. Light is now your best friend so get to know him well.


Whatever you look at you are reacting to fall of light. This light is washing over everything and depending on the angle, diffusion and strength it will change what you see and therefore what you can record with you photograph. Now it is an appreciation for how the light falls and sculpts that you need to master because once mastered you will find it, use it, even create it in order to produce a wonderful image.

The early paint masters worked tirelessly to understand how light falls and shapes what we see, they then recreated this with their brushes. You don’t have to recreate it necessarily but you will need to be able to see it and exploit its effects.

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 21.30.38 Exercise 1:
Go back to your Google searches and favorite photographs, books and walls.

Describe to yourself how the light was used, where it comes from and why it works in those images.

wales2_getty-2 Exercise 2:
Now go find a window, inside your home. A window with strong light coming through, preferably during the day unless you have a strong light source outside at night. Turn off any electric lights or screens that will pollute the room.

Now ask someone to sit in that fall of light and study what you see. Ask them to alter their position and observe how their form changes, how the light sculpts them.

Begin to recognize light and shadow and those bits in-between, they are your midtones. Decide what looks best, observe and understand how the light works.

If you are confident enough make a photograph and see if you can capture it exactly as you see it. Let me know how you got on.


self2-6all images copyright martin gillman 2014




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