‘Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.’ George Eastman
The way we take photos has changed a lot since the invention of photography. George Eastman was at the forefront of making photography affordable, thereby helping to create the hobby we all enjoy. Today most of us have a camera in our pockets in the form of a mobile device. The manufacturers of these devices advertise the camera’s features more often than anything else in the recent adverts that I have seen. Being able to carry a camera in your pocket is not so different from fifty years ago. Remember the Pocket Instamatic Cameras? Yet, the technology used to capture images on light-sensitive materials has changed dramatically.
The one thing that has been a constant throughout the history of photography is light. As the quote above reminds us, light is the essential element of photography. Lens resolution, sensor size, and megapixels are features of specific devices that we use to take photos, but these features are absolutely useless without light. To improve your photography, one of the best things you can do is become a student of light. I’m not talking about memorising interesting factoids about light. For instance, it takes on average eight minutes and twenty seconds for light to travel the nearly 93 million miles from the sun to earth, or that light travels approximately 1,500 kilometres in 1/200 of a second. That is interesting information but not very useful to a photographer.
For me, being a student of light means observing how light falls on and interacts with different objects and surfaces so we can use what we observe in our photographs. Have you ever given much thought to how light can reflect off a pane of glass while also passing through it? Have you ever looked at a painting from one of the ‘Old Masters’ and thought about how they used light in their paintings? We can use light in a similar way in our photography, as the picture of the bowl of pears above shows if we study light. I invite you to become a student of light simply by taking time to observe the light around you.
Tetbury Camera Club welcomes photographers of all levels. For more information about the club, please visit TetburyCameraClub.org.uk
This is an article I wrote for the Tetbury Camera Club that appeared in the September 2021 edition of the Tetbury Advertiser.