Role of Light in Photography

April 28, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

The very fundamental of Photography is the Light. Light has been one of the most transient elements which has existed on earth since the existence of earth itself and for more practical purposes since the existence of the mankind and us.

Light is changing every moment and one thing which has not changed over the ages is also Light. If we observe light carefully as it exists in nature over the course of time in the day and all throughout the year, we can bring a lot of improvement in our photography. It can change the way we look at things. In other words, since we have looked at things with a critical eye from the perspective of light in everyday situations, we can relate light better to our work in Photography.

Light conveys life and if the light is right in our pictures they will be closer to life. Photography completely depends on the Light and its changing qualities. This change in the quality of light is what brings out the mood in our photographs. Photographers need to understand this aspect of Light very well so as to apply the right mood or kind of light in the right situation.

It is the light that brings life to our photographs. Light is the most basic raw material for any picture of any genre. It is the light which conveys the whole mood of the photograph, the message which you want to convey in your image. Photography in Advertising is usually made up and staged. Unless the Photographer has good knowledge of Light in the real life and how it exists in nature, it can't be replicated realistically.  Fashion photography also involves actual natural outdoor or elaborate created indoor sets. Whatever the situation may be, the Photograph should look natural and appealing. Not only should it reveal all the detail in the outfits, but should add to the overall mood of the photograph as well. In other areas like in case of wedding Photography or while shooting interiors, the lighting in one way or the other is already set up to create a particular mood. While you add your own artificial lighting to supplement the existing lighting, make sure that you do not overdo and kill the mood created by the event decorator or the interior designer. 

A photograph conveys a thousand words but if the lighting is not good enough it may convey the wrong words instead. For example, a bright sunny day will add to the warmth and happiness shown in the photograph whereas a dull overcast day may convey sorrow, sadness, thoughtfulness, defeat and other negative moods. Something often noticed in movies, whenever there is a dramatic situation, there is lightning and thunder, but it does add to the impact. When there is hunger and poverty a "flare" is added in the frame to get that feeling.

Most people think of light in terms of intensity, if the light is bright or dark, more or less, high or low. There is more to light than just the intensity. It's that unique quality of light which needs to be understood and applied as per the characteristic of your photograph.

These fashion photographs for New York heritage - leather bags were shot against the light, which creates a beautiful highlight on the hair. External artificial lights and reflectors were ofcourse used to fill in the shadow areas.


The evening light falling on the side is quite subtle and soft. The beauty of shooting on the digital format is that the while balance can be fine tuned at a later stage on the computer to get the desired effect. It's not about the correct white balance but more about the one that looks appealing to the eye. 

Munish Khanna - best Indian Fashion Photographer fashionfashionFashion Photography by Munish Khanna, new delhi, india

With Light modifiers, one can control the way the light falls on the subject. For creative fashion Photography, it's not always essential to illuminate the whole scene completely. The light and shade looks nice and directional lighting helps reveal the texture in the garment as well. I do love playing with light and you will see a lot of shadows in my photography.

In Wedding Photography, lighting plays an important role. It plays the key role in setting up the mood for the whole wedding. For such candid shots one needs to make the best of the moment and be able to shoot in the existing light without any artificial support.

Pre Wedding Shoots By Munish Khannawedding photography

The warm golden light of the setting sun was falling just at the right spot where I wanted the couple to be positioned for one of their pre wedding shoots.  This warm golden light is there in fact before the sun sets and the intensity of the sunlight, though it lasts a brief period is quite strong.

Natural light the way it exists as one shoots images of random people around the globe, has it's own challenges. No modifiers and no support of artificial light as one gets in commercial assignments, be it Advertising or fashion. With experience, I have got the knack of shooting outdoors in unexpected lighting conditions also with proper exposure. Painted with LightPainted with Light

Your exposure in the camera should be just right to get the deep and saturated colours straight out of the camera. If you have shot well, you do not need photoshop or any other image enhancing software to bring out the desired effects in a photograph.

A simple photograph of a leaf illuminated from behind, photographed in the studio with artificial lights.

nudesnudesnudes nudesnudesCreative Nude photography by Munish Khanna

While the subjects above are nude, the photographs are creative and artistic because of the way these have been lighted up. A good control over the lighting helps to show only what the Photographer wishes to show. The Photographer's vision helps him create the image that is there in his mind.

Munish Khanna is an Advertising and Fashion Photographer who has specially created one of the best online photography courses with a vast experience of teaching photography at his photography academy in Delhi. He has been running his Photography course in Delhi since 1993. Munish also specializes in helping young (or any age ) aspiring models to build up a career in the world of modelling and Acting. Do check out more details about the Modelling portfolios which he offers in Delhi.


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