Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Photographic Composition - Using light as the subject

The meaning of the word, "photography", is derived from the Greek words for "light" and "writing". Without light there would be no photograph. It would be like attempting to do a painting without paint. Black and white photography is probably a closer form of working with pure light and shadow, but color photography also adds the physical color spectrum of warm and cool tones.

I have always looked upon light itself as the chief compositional element a photographer can use to control meaning in an image. Below are a few images that derive their meaning from the compositional use of light.

Here the composition is all about the juxtaposition of geometric forms, with the most dominant form caused by the shaft of sunlight coming through the window. The models shoes were placed at the highest point of contrast on the edge of light and shadow.

Strong sunlight pouring in from a window caused the hard shadow of the glass on the table, which was used as part of the subject in the photograph. The glass itself is sharply defined against the dark wall background, which was in shadow.

Even with the main subject jammed against the lower part of the frame, it pops our due to the shaft of light hitting it and causing a high point of contrast.

The apple is lit by a very late window light. Placing a black card behind it created a deep shadow behind the apple and sharply defined its outline.

This photo was taken in a hotel room. The front of the door was lit by artificial light in the bedroom, which the light coming under the door was from bright sunlight coming from a window in the bathroom. Since tungsten light is warm and sunlight is cool, the color of the two light sources is in contrast. Balancing the overall scene for the tungsten illumination caused the daylight coming though the door to go a very eerie blue. Where you choose to color balance in an image can make all the difference in its meaning.

The main subject of this photograph, the rower, was already in shadow when I took this picture, and our attention shifted to the pattern of his wake harshly lit by the rising sun.

I grabbed this shot from a car window just as the setting sun hit the sign. The bright contrast centered over the two arrows forms the center of the composition.

This photo derives its meaning from the only illumination in this photograph, a desk lamp placed above the blank legal pad.

The bright setting sun sharply outlines the leaves in the foreground. Placing the right leaf over a brighter background shape further clarifies its outline. The leaf on the right is beginning to get lost in the darker background shadows, which is the main reason I kept the sharp focus on the more important leaf to the left. 

An overcast evening light in winter created this moody silhouette of the tree outlined against the cloudy sky. The blue tint in the scene is caused by the cool temperature of dark, overcast evening clouds. The color temperature of this image is completely opposite to the warm tones of the sunset-leaf photo above it.

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