Mini – Assignment – 3 – See the Light

See the Light – Mini Assignment #3

March 15, 2010 by Julie McLeod

Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” George Eastman

It really is all about the light. The quality of light and the way the photographer uses it is of singular importance in making a good photograph. Good light can add dimension and interest to any photo. And, it is light that gives a dramatic or emotional photograph its impact. This month we’ll look at light’s different qualities and learn to assess how various types of light can influence our images. Though not a complete list, we’ll focus on these types of light:

  • Full Sun – Light is at its strongest when the sun is high in the sky. The strength of this direct light can wash out colors and create dark, harsh shadows that become distracting and unpleasant. The high contrast between shadowed areas and sunlit areas can pose exposure challenges, often resulting in loss of detail in the highlights or shadow areas of your image.
  • Cloudy/Overcast – A cloudy sky diffuses the light of the sun and makes it soft and appealing.  Rather than the direct, focused light source that falls on your subject under full sun, on a cloudy day the the light source is spread out, having the result of reducing the darkness of the shadows and making the contrast more manageable.
  • Open Shade – Another soft and diffuse light is found on sunny days when the subject is entirely in shade.  As with a cloudy or overcast day, you won’t have to contend with shadows and contrast is low.
  • Golden Hour – This is the first and last hour of sunlight in a day.  The light cast by the low sun is warm, often yielding a soft pink, orange, or red glow.  During the golden hours, shadows and contrast are minimized.

Mini-Assignment #3

We’d like you to take some time to consider what constitutes good light.  Try going out without your camera and simply study the light. As George Eastman said, admire it and embrace it and love it. Think about how it might affect your photos. Photography books, galleries, and museums are great places to see good light at work. When you look at other photographer’s work, think about the light and how it worked or didn’t work. Below, you’ll find some links to articles about various light and how to use light effectively for your photography. Take a little time to peruse them and think more about light.

Now for the experimentation.  We’d like you to take some photos of a single scene or subject in more than one different light situation – open shade, full sun, cloudy/overcast, or golden hour.  Then, share the the photos on your blog so we can see the variations produced by the different types of light.  You needn’t take all the images at once or even on the same day but they do need to be under different light conditions. Remember, for comparison purposes, we’d like the subject to be largely the same.  Let’s say you decide to photograph a local church.  Try visiting at dawn one morning to capture the golden light, then another day, go back for a shot during full sun to see how the harsh light treats your subject.  You can even take something moveable from one place to another to photograph under different conditions.  For example, move a garden decoration from where it normally sits and place it under the shade of a wall to see the difference between full sun and open shade.

Be sure to tell us about the light conditions for each of the shots you post.  Seeing everyone’s work is how we all learn. Take your time and enjoy your month of Seeing the Light….

1. Linda Johnstone
2. Karen HBL
3. LindaW
4. Sherrie
5. Julie
6. Jens
7. Jens
8. PatB
9. Viktoria
10. Clara
11. Judi Clark
12. Deena
13. Christina, Sweden

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Post your images on your blog and share the link to your post via the Mr. Linky widget below.

Looking for more to read?

Read here about What is Good Light and here about The Best Light.  This cleverly titled article How to Improve Your Photography Without Spending a Dime is all about using light to make the difference in your shots.  For more on shooting on overcast days, see It’s Cloudy – Don’t Put That Camera Away and The Softbox in the Sky.  And a great article on the drama to be gained from cloudy skies is Killer Techniques for Shooting in Natural Light.

To find the optimal times for golden hour photography, visit The Golden Hour Calculator.  The calculator allows you to select your location on a map and then displays the times sunrise and sunset will occur for the current day.  After you select your location on the map, be sure to change the time to local time in the dropdown, then hover your mouse over the two golden bands on the timeline to see your golden hour information.  (Note: while many photographers consider the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset to be the golden hours, the creator of The Golden Hour Calculator uses a more scientific definition.  You’ll see that his ‘hour’ is a little longer than 60 minutes.)


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