Photography course: Day 3

The word photography came from the combination of the Greek word phos (meaning light) and graphis (meaning stylus or paintbrush) to form a word that means drawing with light. This highlights the importance of light in this kind of art, because without light, we could not see anything nor the camera be able to capture a photograph.

Last night’s lecture about light and lighting was the one I’ve anticipated the most because I want to be able to use available light properly, introduce artificial ones if necessary and use it to create mood, texture and drama. The class started with the theory of light, how light has different colour casts and how it affects the photographs we take. The instructor also mentioned the importance of paying attention to the quality of the light (hard versus soft light), size of the light and the direction from which it is coming from.

The lecturer specialises in portrait photography and it’s obvious from his body of work that he’s a skilled photographer. Unfortunately, the lecture started on a lot of concepts about light which didn’t seem to be connected to photography. After about the fourth or fifth slide about light theory, one of the class participants asked exactly what the theories had to do with photography. The instructor replied that he just wanted to emphasise how light works and not jump into light in photography without an explanation of how light might affect a photograph. However, his first few slides were quite wordy and practical examples didn’t come until later into the session. By then, I think some of the attendees were too confused or disinterested. I think his lecture would have been better served with more examples at the beginning of the session, a little less theory and perhaps a more practical live demonstration.

That is not to say though that the lecture wasn’t useful because it was. I loved the bit when he showed examples of his work and had the class guess the quality, size and direction of the light and I thought there should have been more of that. He also showed some photographs where the lighting wasn’t the best and how he worked around it or used reflectors and a flash pointed at an angle to remedy the problem.

One photograph he showed as an example was of a lady wearing a white top and black skirt standing against a black background. The light source was to the lady’s right and it wasn’t a particularly big light (if I remember correctly). The photograph came out flat and because her skirt blended with the black background, it looked like her top and therefore her torso was floating in space. In the comparison photo, a reflector was used and placed on the other side of the light source. The light gave the figure a third dimension and picked up some detail in her skirt and showed texture and the end photo came out heaps better than the first.

The lecture ended a bit over time but I stayed back a bit to flick through the lecturer’s album of photographic works. If there’s one thing I learned from the session, it’s that paying attention to the light and how it hits the subject makes or breaks a photo. Whoever coined the term photography really had hit the nail on the head, it literally is all about painting with light.

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Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment