Week 5: A trick of the light?

This week’s plans were drastically altered on Thursday. I’d originally planned to experiment with landscapes and image stitching/panoramas, but I’ve decided I can do these topics much more justice once I’m a) home for Thanksgiving and b) find my mini-tripod.  (But if you can’t wait, Jessica just covered stitch assist in her latest post!)  For now, I’ve decided to take a closer look at the use of lighting in photography. Last week I briefly touched on lighting issues and correction, but this week I’ll stick to some of the basics of light quality. Because of the late change in plans, I’ll be posting more about light sources next week, and, if I find the time, I might add something else into the mix too.

~~~~~Light Quality~~~~~

Regardless of the reason why we are shooting, when dealing with light, quality, not quantity, is of the utmost importance”  —Paul Comon

I am constantly having issues with quantity over quality when it comes to light. This issue is partly the product of a busy schedule (I don’t always have time to take pictures when the light is right for a particular subject), and part of it is forgetfulness that the camera doesn’t always “see” things the way I do.  For example, I thought the following picture would turn out just fine. It wasn’t too sunny out, and it wasn’t yet dusk, so I figured the camera would “think” the conditions were good, too. Wrong! I have no idea what happened here, but I’m pretty sure my “internal” light meter was a bit off!


Light can be “soft” or “hard”/”harsh,” and different subjects are best photographed in specific light qualities. Comon uses the examples of “male” versus “female” subjects. While I’m not entirely sure what these categories mean beyond their literal interpretations, his examples include using soft light for flowers and children (female subject) and harsh light for male subjects.

The following photo was taken on a cloudy day with soft light (I think!)
Point VI

This leaf was also captured under soft/diffused lighting conditions…
DSC04145…as was this familiar shot from our Daily Shoot assignment.

Afternoon SunHard light, on the other hand, produces images with higher contrast and more shadows. This usually happens in direct light from one source. I’ve found that turning on your flash can help reduce unwanted contrast.  These aren’t particularly noteworthy shots, but they make a good flash off/on comparison. In general I prefer natural light (left), but using flash (right) seemed to be the easiest way around the dim kitchen lighting.





In the next photo, I interpreted “male” to mean more angular subjects, such as architecture. Direct afternoon lighting (~12:30 pm) made these shadows possible. I think there might be something to this male/female thing because, when I tried photographing architectural elements in soft light, the images turned out rather dull; I’d say the fence picture is a good example of this issue.



  1. […] Last week I discussed light quality, but that’s only half of the story in photography. Light sources are also important to consider when capturing a photographic subject. For this post, I referred to advice from John Hedgecoe, Tom Ang, and Paul Comon. […]

  2. Your red flower picture was amazing. I know everyone is saying the same thing, but thats just proof of how good it its. It looks like something from the Avatar movie by Cameron.

  3. Starting to feel like an echo, but the flower shot is gorgeous! Although, I think the falling leaf is going to win my favorite vote.

  4. Like everyone else, I agree the photo with the red flowers is stunning! It interesting how much light can either make a picture or even ruing it.

  5. That picture with the red and blue flowers is stunning. You can really see how the difference in light in all of these pictures affects the final product, very cool.

  6. I LLOOOVEE the picture of the flowers! it looks so cool! and I like the picture that compares the flash and no flash, very interesting. You are a really good photographer!

  7. I love the photo of the red flowers surrounded by the whitish leaf things.
    I also find it really interesting that certain types of light and subjects can be categorized as male or female–talk about arbitrary terms!
    Nice job incorporating photographic examples of what you’re talking about 🙂