For beginners, a good photography starts with a good subject. While progressing, the quality of light becomes a priority over subject, as any of them can deliver a great result as soon a moody lighting is falling on it.
In my Essential Photography Classes, I very quickly emphasize the importance of light to my students who solely focus on camera settings and the subject itself.
I am always repeating this back to basic motto: “without good light, there is no good picture”
The word “Photography” literally (from its Greek origin) means: “painting with light”.
It is the reason why, big budget advertisement, movies and important visual production are spending most of the money on lighting equipment, specialist and crew.
It is also the reason why studio shooting are making a difference compare to natural light session (for portrait, products and fashion).
Also, memorable landscape photography are always shot at the best time of the year and the best hours of the day.
Of course, with newer camera able to shoot at very high ISO (higher than ISO 6400), this original idea seems outdated.
And some geeks are spending their time to challenge their vision and their equipment capacity by shooting subjects in “no light” situation such as a jumping black dog in a tunnel at night.
With this search of camera efficiency in low light, subject is not important anymore, only pixel peeping and noise hunting on screen seems to bring satisfaction.
However, this kind of practice is not related to photography anymore and I am calling it “ISOgraphy”.
Light is all you need
Therefore, whatever camera you are using, a better lighting will always bring the best improvement in your photography.
I am so used to search for light (or building up lighting for film making and studio work) that my emotional response to any subject (even my little daughter) is linked to the quality of light falling on them.
Somehow, anything under good lighting is a subject to me and my feeling and creativity is building up the shot.
Quality of light?
When I am speaking about lighting, there is sometime a misunderstanding among my students.
While I am considering quality, they are considering brightness only.
A good quality of light is shaping the subject (3D feel), bringing a mood (hard or soft), displaying vivid or pastel colors, offering a strong B&W type of contrast or a smooth transition between bright and dark area.
As soon as you are starting to be sensitive to light, it is a never ending experience as it is spreading such a wide panel of beauty and there is nothing more enjoyable in life than to see beauty everyday.
No need to be trained to find good lighting, it can be anywhere, anytime (for close up shots) and you just need to open your eyes and to concentrate on the way light is falling on things and people around you.
And whatever is bath under a great light will become your subject…
Former photo journalist, Film maker and ELC Shanghai Photography teacher, Franc Peret is teaching Essential Photography Classes, Advanced Photography Workshop and Film Making Classes in Shanghai, for the last 11 years.
If you wish to contact Franc, just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org