Week 102 — What is the Right Light?

This shot is like the adopted brother of the shot in week 101. In that post, I talked about how I found myself searching for good light more and more often. By doing so, I was able to find that really striking image where the light created all these wonderful leading lines and created a great story for the image. This image was taken pretty much in the middle of the day when most people consider the lighting for photography bad. But just because the lighting by itself isn’t beautiful doesn’t mean that it’s not right for a particular scene.

This may seem contradictory at first. If the quality of your image depends on light, how can you make a beautiful image without beautiful light? The key here is that the beauty of the light is context-dependent. Many more scenes will look beautiful during a golden hour than during the middle of the day because the light at that time of day nicely complements pretty much any scene. In the middle of the day, the light usually won’t complement the scene. This is why photographers will often not even bother shooting in the middle of the day. This may be a good strategy if you’re a landscape photographer, but if you’re shooting on the streets you can have a bit more flexibility. This image is a good example of when the harsh overhead light found in the middle of the day was right for the scene. Without the overhead light, you wouldn’t have the interesting shadows cast on the wall from the signs above the top of the frame. These shadows are crucial to the image, as they create some leading lines that draw your eye to the subject. Just like they did in the image in week 101!

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