When Starting a Photography Business It’s Essential That You Understand Light

By Gil · No Comments »


When  photographers stopped coating their own plates and papers, they didn’t change what they called themselves to “off the shelf”  photographers.

When Kodak sold cameras with the slogan – “You Push the Button and We’ll Do the Rest” photographers still called themselves photographers – not film photographers.

So when you’re starting a photography business now that most people have stopped using film and have moved to storing images on a silicon chip instead of silver halide coated on gelatine (or whatever it is), as far as I can see there is absolutely no reason to start calling oneself a digital photographer.

You are still a photographer  – i.e. “Drawing with light”, the literal meaning.

You still need light and the ability to use that light, plus understanding what you can do with it.

This is the most important part of being a photographer.  Without that understanding you are a “recordist”  – a ‘point and shoot’ merchant, not a true photographer.

The best landscape photographers not only choose the perfect viewpoint, they also choose the right time of day and the perfect weather, the right time of year –  conditions that combine together to create the perfect landscape photograph, because the light will be right.

In the same way, the best portrait photographers don’t just fill up their studios with enough light to take portraits by – yes, it does still happen in some studios – in fact even more so today than it did a few years ago.

The best portrait photographers know exactly where to place the light(s) for the subject sitting in front of them.  They can make their subject appear slimmer or fatter, angry or agreeable, plain or attractive, all by the use of light.

The best wedding photographers know not to put a ‘groom in a black coat together with his bride dressed in white in full sunshine but to find some gentle shade or shoot  against the light also referred to as ‘contre-jour’.

So, light and the thorough understanding of it is what you must have to really call yourself a photographer and not just a “recordist”.

The Story of the toadstool and the appreciation of light

Let me give you a quick demo of what I mean.  My wife and I were in Holland recently and while we were enjoying a country walk, my wife noticed a toadstool (or some type of fungus) growing in the grass and thought she would take a photo, a “record” if you like.  However, I noticed that where she had taken the shot from, the lighting was fairly flat – even though it was in full sunlight.

So, I took her little Canon IXUS 400 ‘point & shoot’ camera, and moved to the other side of the subject and voila!  (a bit silly that ‘voila’ really as we were in Holland, not France – but I digress).  I hope you can see and appreciate the difference it has made to the shape of the toadstool.

Toadstool bad light



Toadstool good light


Same toadstool, same place, same time, lower viewpoint and almost ‘against’ the light – notice the shadow of the toadstool.

See what I mean, it’s just a question of ‘seeing’ the light and using it to best advantage.

Look at the texture on the toadstool and the grass that now looks like real grass.





Category: Photography