Sequence viewing > Light & Lighting - Resource - © Lloyd Godman

Reading light

It is a good skill to be able to read light in an image - that is to look at an image and try to work out from the shadows and highlights where the lights are positioned the quality of the light and the intensity.

In the Studio


This image from Body Symbols was taken with a single studio flash light and no reflectors or diffusers. If we look closely at this image we can see the light is hard and direct - there is no texture in the shadows- they fall off to a dense black, creating an abstraction the image relies on. When we look at the reflections - they suggest the light is coming from the top towards the camera and reflecting off this area of the body. With reflections the angle the light reflects off at is the same as the angle it hits the surface.

Then we get a sense of how the light falls off into shadow as it hits the brest at an oblique angle.

In the landscape


When we look at the light in this image from The last Rivers Song - again it suggests a direct light source - this time the sun. The reflection in the wet sand and the water gives us a good indication of the direction of the light. We can see how as the light falls at different angles across the ribs in the sand how different surfaces light up with the reflection, or where the light strikes across it reveal the texture of the sand. The dark shadows from the rock on the top left also acts as a pointer to the direction of the shadow.
By contrast the light in this image from the Homage to Baxter work is diffuse flat and even. There are no harsh shadows most areas are lit evenly suggesting that the daylight was overcast.


  Reflective items like glass, metal and eyes can tell us about lighting. Spherical elements like eyes reflect visual elements and can show how many lights were used and the type of lights used - it can also show where the lights where positioned. They might also show where the photographer was in relationship to the object when they photographed it - perhaps we might see a tripod. So we can sometimes work out the lighting a photographer- use in a particular shot by looking at an eye.


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light and lighting source and resource