Light is Everything

Photographers make a big deal about light. And if you think about it, it makes sense. A camera records light just as a tape recorder records sound. In music, the better the source audio, the better the recording. So obviously, the better the light, the better the photo. But it took me quite a while to really appreciate the criticality of it.

I've always known of course that good light is a good thing, and like anybody else I've always admired photos that had amazing light. But I think that for many years I kind of looked at good light as a highly desirable but not essential ingredient. The primary objectives were finding a good subject and getting a good composition.

But then I was reading an interview with some pro and he was talking about how he was in some exotic location and he would not bother shooting from mid-morning to late afternoon when the sun was high. I remember I was slightly amazed that he would go to great expense and effort to get to some far-flung location and then spend the majority of his waking hours not actually taking pictures. And I realized that to him, taking pictures of beautiful things in beautiful places was a waste of time if the light wasn't also beautiful. He considered good light to be a non-negotiable requirement and he was willing to let great subjects go unphotographed until he got the light he wanted. And that was a small revelation for me.

Now, I haven't put that sort of extreme constraint on my own photography. I don't have that luxury and I actually think it's important to learn how to make the most out of whatever lighting situations you're dealt. But it has raised lighting in my priority list of considerations, and more importantly, it's made me realize that a good scene is worth the patience and effort of good lighting.