Photography – a Philosophical look at the Science of using Light to Create an Artistic Image

Well 2018 is upon us and a happy new year to all readers of this article on photography. As stated in the title, this is a philosophical and scientific review of the art of photography. A factual definition can be found on Wikipedia, however for our purposes we will consider the process of taking light (photo) to produce appealing images (graphs).

To consider an example we can all relate to, let’s take the challenge of photographing a small breasted woman. Making her breasts look flat, shapeless and smaller than reality, would result in a very disappointed client. A satisfactory work might make her breasts appear three dimensional, shapely and even slightly larger than reality. If we were to work solely with uncontrolled light, chances are the resulting image would be flat and disappointing. Although not mentioned in our definition, we also have the opposite of light, shadow to create appealing images. We can do this by using a trick we learnt at primary school. By applying shadow to one side and below, we’re able to bring two dimensional geometric squares to three dimensional life.

Controlling the direction of light, can make our client’s bust stand out without resorting to cosmetic surgery or image manipulation. Good portrait photographers can outperform cosmetic surgeons by slimming waistlines, enhancing busts, pruning noses and narrowing hips Etc through the controlled use of light and shadow and pose. The only drawback of photography is the effect only lasts as long as the client is in front of the camera.

Application in Architectural Photography

You’re probably wondering why an architectural photographer is talking about performing a boob job through controlled use of directional light. Well the answer is quite simple, the same technique can bring buildings to life. Controlled directional light can enhance shapes and textures of buildings. Photographers however face an additional challenge when photographing architecture. Architectural subjects are mostly far too large for photographic lighting and can’t be turned to catch the sunlight as we might wish.

Architectural photographers therefore need to predict the position of the sun to bring out texture in building materials and show penetrating light in interior spaces. Architects devote time and effort in choosing textured bricks and specifying mortar joints. By not using directional light to bring out these texture, photographers would fail to honour architects and builders.

Photography - use of directional sunlight to highlight textures in a steel sculpture.

Form and texture defined on a steel sculpture, due to the use of directional sunlight.