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Light, light, light... Photography is light. Without light no photo.

But what is a good light?

Mont Saint Michel, FranceThe light around sunset and sunrise a often very appreciated

The light around sunset and sunrise a often very appreciated

There are a lot of different light sources some natural and some artificial:

  • Sun
  • Flash
  • Bulb
  • Screen
  • Fire

The natural lights are out of control. You should be able to "see" the light and learn how to deal with it.

In addition to 100% natural and 100% flash, all the in-between are possible to get unlimited possibilities!

I will not talk about flashes here. They will be treated in a separate section, as it is a complete new world.


Learn to "see" the light

Everywhen, any time, you can train yourselve by looking at the light. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the light sources (sun, bulbs, neon, fire, a window...)?
  • How are the shadows : very dark, big/small?
  • How is the transition zone between light and dark : very harsh and sharp, smooth ?
  • What are the colors of the lights?
  • Is there any very bright spot on my subject?

What do you think?

Hard and Soft light

Two photos to explain you:

Hard Ligth

Soft Light

What does make a light hard or soft is the relative size of the ligth source compare to the subject.

For example, the sun (that is huge), is relativey small in the sky. So on a sunny day when the sun light you, the shadows will hard.

On the other hand, on a cloudy day, when the sky is full of cloud, the sun his lighting the clouds. So the light is basically all the white sky. Then the shadows are soft.


Hard Light:

  • Deep shadows very dark and very well defined
  • The shadows may be ugly (often on subject face)
  • High contrast that may weither lead to light aera burned or dark area 100% black
  • It is the light during a sunny day wihtout cloud

Soft Light:

  • Soft and light shadows (grey)
  • Often use for portrait photography
  • It is the light of a cloudy day


Hot and Cold light

This comes simply from the color of the light. Red/orange, the ligth will be hot. Blue/white we will have a cold light.

PS : The white balance you choose will also modify the color.

Hot Ligth

Cold Light

Hot Light:

  • Feeling of power

Cold Light:

  • Feeling of fear



Soft and cold Ligth

Hard and hot Light

The soft light is not working. No texture is visible on the sand, the full picture is flat. On the right one, the hard shadows create interesting partern on the sand.


Hard Ligth

Soft Light

Here it is the contrary, the hard light create ugly shadows on the subject whereas the soft light, put the flower in a peaceful environment.



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