Photography for Beginners: The Importance of Light

Why Light Matters so Much

The word photography is derived from the Greek words “photo” and “graphy“.

Photo means light and Graphy means drawing or writing, therefore the word photography effectively means drawing with light. Read more about the origin of the word photography on Wikipedia.

Understanding the correct use of light in photography can help you to take your best photos yet. Especially when you shoot indoors and, like in real estate photography and have limited light sources.

Those who are photography beginners should take some time to try to learn how to use light to their advantage.

Related Post: Best Low Light Cameras

Natural Angles of Light

Taking advantage of the natural angles of light is important and is one of the first lessons in photography for beginners. When taking a photo of a statue or a person, you need to ensure that the light is striking the face from the correct angle, or the face can look shadowy or sinister.

Get the right angle and you can create a powerful image.

Photography for Beginners: Portraits & Light
photo credit: Helga Weber
Good Light in Portrait: Photography for Beginner
photo credit: Jan Charles Linus Ekenstam

Spot Metering Setting

Most SLR cameras will have automatic settings which use special light meters and detectors to gauge which aperture and shutter settings should be used. Although automatic settings can sometimes help you to make exactly the right choice, they often don’t work out perfectly.

There are a lot of different elements in every picture, and sometimes these different elements can end up confusing the sensors.

For example, if you try to take a picture which involves both bright and dark elements, the camera sensors may try to compromise, and you will end up with a disappointing shot.

Whilst these automatic settings can be really useful for those who are doing photography for beginners, more confident photographers will try to alter the light settings for themselves.

One way to take more control of the lightness and shade in a shot is to use the spot metering setting. Automatic metering usually takes into account the whole image, however, this is what causes the light sensors to get confused if there are light and dark elements.

Using the manual spot measuring setting will allow you to decide on a small spot which is off-centre, which can then be used to set the target exposure. This allows the photographer to pick a bright or dark element to focus upon. Taking the light reading off of a bright background area is a great way to create a fantastic looking silhouette in the foreground.

Spot Metering Light
Spot Metering (on the bright background) – Photo credit: Pandiyan
Light Photography
photo credit: Ahmad-Dhanie
Light: Spot Metering Dark
Spot metering on the Subject | Photo credit: M.Faccicc
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On a digital SLR camera, you will also have the opportunity to adjust ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed to attempt to control the amount of light which enters the lens. These three things are known as the “exposure triangle“.

A longer shutter speed means more light can enter the lens, as does a bigger aperture. Longer shutter speeds are also great for taking pictures of moving lights in the dark, such as traffic or fire dancers. You will be able to see beautiful trails left by the lights.


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