Every time I go out with a camera I have a child like scene of excitement. I hope to discover something or be inspired to take new photos. I don’t just want to clip off any old image I want to create some thing, to combine my “Camera skills” with “that I saw”. It my sound easy, but being in the right location with the right light at the right time doesn’t happen every time. There is a very satisfying feeing in the fact that “I know I took that”. And from what i can tell im not alone in this feeling. About 10 years ago I was down at lake Constance, it was the golden hour and there was a lot of traffic on the lake coming home for the evening. For once I wasn’t concentration on taking photos but enjoying the scenery. All of a sudden a person about 10m away from me started to scream with joy “YES YES YES”, I couldn’t resist but to ask the elderly gentleman what had happened. He promptly replied “I just took the best photo of my entire life”. I was suddenly in a warm fuzzy moment and could relate to his sense of joy. I think about this moment a lot when I’m out shooting: “how ill I know when I take the best photo of my life”, “Have I already taken it”, “how do I define my best photo” etc etc etc.
Since that trip to lake Constance I have taken a lot of photos I am very proud of. But it did get me thinking about how do we define a great image, What I like you may hate. There are defiantly photos from people such as “Henri Cartier-Bresson”, “Dianne Arbus”, “Helmut Newton” or “Vivian Maier” to name a few that seem to have the special something. The didn’t have access to the technology that we have today, but still took photos that are simply stunning. They seem to have a connection with their surroundings, understanding the light, anticipating the right timing, and seeing things just a bit different from everyone else. Within that single frame, they are able say, “This is the way I see the world.”
Photography is the art of capturing light. Whether in a studio, out on the street or setup on a tripod need an understanding of light. For some people this comes naturally, for others its comprehensible. So, even before I raised the camera to my eye. I try to see my photograph because I am aware of the light. I try to introduced to my subject by the qualities of the light and the potential it had to transform the world around me. This approach to seeing is based on asking yourself three simple questions:
Where is the light coming from?
Awareness of where the light is coming from (not just the source but its direction as well) informs you of the settings you’ll use on your camera to achieve the best exposure. It also helps you to choose where to position your subject and/or your camera in relation to the source of light. When you begin to see where the light is coming from, you train your eye to analyse how many different types of light there are and how light is transformed when it comes into contact with different objects (for example, when it’s reflected off the surface of a large, white wall).
What is the quality of the light?
When you know where the light is coming from, you can start to analyse its physical qualities. If the light is coming from the bare midday sun, you see the harsh, deep shadows it produces on the opposite side of the subject and other elements in the frame. On an overcast day, that same sun is filtered through clouds, creating a more diffused soft light. That softens the shadows and reduces the contrast between light and dark. If the light source is a candle, the light very warm in colour—markedly different from the light produced by the camera’s built-in flash, which has a harsher and colder quality.
How much light do I have to work with?
This question is very important, as it determines your ability to pull off a well exposed and sharp photograph. On a bright sunny day, you have an plenty of light to work with, which means you have a lots of options when it comes to the combinations of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO that you can use. In a low-light situation (e.g. at sunset, or at a concert), those options are more limited, and you have to make compromises—for example, using a slower shutter speed and sacrificing sharpness and/or using a wider aperture and sacrificing depth of field, or puch your ISO up higer and risk “digital noise”