Learn Photography Light. Part #1

In the first lesson, we will try to understand the light nature through an experiment. The direction of light is one of the fundamental ideas of photography. Some of them are the amount, angle, temperature, and softness of light. But they will be touched in the future lessons. Today it’s all about the direction.

You will need:

  • The object — let it be a cup of tea, a slice of fruit, an egg or the single colour ball (ideally white). Use all objects one by one for a better result.
  • Table lamp, white bulb is recommended
  • Table big enough to place the lamp at a 30- 50 cm distance from the object
  • White paper to cover the table (if table is white, it’s not necessary)
  •  Camera (smartphone will do)
  • Tripod is ideal but not necessary
  • Stool and big window in the daytime for the second experiment

Note: Use an Auto White balance in both the cases.



Experiment No #1. Artificial Light

Place the object on the table. Let’s call it “stage”. Imagine that your object is located in the center of an analog watch, and your position to the object is 6 o’clock. Put the camera on a tripod, (alternatively, you may keep it in hands at the same position during the experiment). The angle of your camera is supposed to be 45 degrees to the object. Place the lamp on the left front side (approximately 50-30 cm from the object) in a “7 o’clock” position. Then switch the lamp on. Capture the image. Shift camera to “8 o’clock”, again capture the image. Shift lamp to “9 o’clock” and do it again. Keep repeating till your lamp appears at “5 o’clock”. Try to make one image with the lamp at “6 o’clock”, it will give you an idea that why the use of an inbuilt flash is never recommended by professional food photographers!
When you will see all your images, analyse the position of the shadows and how light covers the object, and how much shadow remain with every position of the lamp. The light will work with your object in almost a similar fashion most of the time. This lesson is very important because all other information will be somehow related to it.


Experiment No #2. Natural Light

Put the stool covered with a white paper about 1.5 meters away from the window. Place your object (preferably the white or single colour ball in this case) on the stool. Position your camera at an angle of 45 degrees from the object. Stand near the stool in such way that the light from the window falls on the left. Consider you are standing at “6 o’clock” position. And as your light source is not movable, you will move along with the camera. Step to “7 o’clock” and click the picture, then to “8 o’clock” and click again. (Try not to block the light when you shoot from “8, 9, 10 o’clock”). Once you clicked all the 12 pictures, see all of them together.



When you will compare all the 24 pictures, you will find the difference between an artificial and a natural light. The details the light temperature, and the softness of the light will be all different. Remember these values are like photography multiplication table for number 2. We will discuss other qualities of the light in the upcoming lessons.

P. S. Hope these experiments gave you some food for thought. Share your experience with fellow readers in comments. Cheers:)