Are You A Light Seeker? - Digital Photography School
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Are You A Light Seeker?

First, let me say that I borrowed the expression ‘light seeker’ from fellow photographer Jerod Foster. It’s the perfect way to describe what we are as photographers and I am going to try to explain why we need to pay more attention to the light around us to make better images.

My photography improved dramatically on the day I became truly aware of light. Since then, I’ve been constantly aware of the types of light around me – a room lit by a single lamp, a plaza in full sun or a candle in a restaurant window. I am always aware of the quality and behavior of light – its color or temperature, how it reflects off different surfaces, the shadows it creates, the way it shines through glass. I am always amazed by the ways light affects the mood of a scene.

Eye candy for the light seeker.

How did that awareness improve my photography? First, I came to realize that there is no bad light.  Once I learned to make whatever light was available work to my advantage, new opportunities presented themselves.  Even the bright mid-day sun can inspire some very creative images if you utilize those harsh shadows to your photographic advantage.

Once you become fully aware of the quality of light around you, you will become more curious with your camera. This heightened awareness will help you make better camera adjustments, so you can spend more time shooting and less time processing or binning your images. Fine tuning the exposure compensation and white balance will soon become second nature to you, whether you are shooting into the sun, or on a rainy day.  You will also learn to choose the right ISO for every shot. I highly recommend getting out of auto ISO mode and train yourself to recognize the quantity of light you have to work with. Once you become aware of the light and how it works, you can make it work to suit your shot.

Make it a habit of noticing the light around you, whether you are inside, outside or driving down the street. Don’t shoot at first – just pay attention to the light wherever you are.  Photography is all about light, so we can practice our skills 24/7, with or without a camera.  Soon you will say, “Wow, this light is amazing! How have I missed it before?” You will see much potential in the most ordinary situations and realize that there are images waiting to be made everywhere and at any time of the day.

The shadows created by the direct sun light filtering through the glass roof make this picture interesting.

The fog lifting and the sun rising behind the prairie grass covered in snow only lasted a few seconds. Just enough time to adjust your settings.

Remember, we are storytellers. Light affects the mood and can alter the story. Being aware of the quality of light will help you create stronger images.

Okay!  Look up from your screen right now!  What’s the quality of light around you?  Do you see how it falls on the objects on your desk, the shadows it casts, the color and the mood it creates? Once you become a light seeker, your photographs will be more interesting to view and more fun to take!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. I am pleased to be a new master of street photography at The Arcanum. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Google+.

  • http://www.folmarkemp.com Donald Kemp

    I always look at the light and shadows first before I think about composition. I don’t know exactly when it developed that way. But it is probably one of my favorite things about photography.

  • ccting

    Great article.. I only started to pay attention to lights a few weeks ago.. ..

  • http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/ Mridula

    Many thanks for this post. I will try to do more with the available light. I have to say I took this picture on a day when there was fog, I processed it a bit but never expected while I was clicking that fog that it would become so interesting.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2010/12/black-winged-stilt.html

  • Buddah gurl

    Without light we are painters with ink and pencil.I can’t paint therefore I shoot. Im in a creative funk, I feel stuck, and sick over it… Don’t know what to do. This post may help….. Its perfect for all pros and those aspiring. Bravo.

  • Buddah gurl

    P.s beautiful work Val……

  • http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com Jeff E Jensen

    Hi, my name is Jeff, and I’m a light seeker. . . .

    Here’s one of my favorites, this was on an early morning walk in Yellowstone National Park. The light was fantastic.

    http://blog.jeffejensenphotography.com/2010/02/this-is-image-that-i-took-on-trip-to.html

    And, another favorite. This one near Navajo Bridge in Arizona:

    http://blog.jeffejensenphotography.com/2010/05/desert-beauty.html

  • http://www.buildmyelectricguitar.com Guitar Builder

    One thing I like to do is night photography. I recently had a conversation with a fellow photographer, who couldn’t grasp how I took my shots.

    Kind of along the lines of a “light seeker”, I often try to explain that night photography to me is more about “catching light” as opposed to “taking a photograph”.

    Thanks for the great read!

  • http://www.wildlifeencounters.eu Steve

    Taking shots in the bright sunlight of the Mediterranean can be quite a challenge:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-of-France/G0000BzQXTlspD3c/I0000OWpuLDB1dZo

  • http://disney-photography-blog.blogspot.com/ Alexx

    YES!

    I am a light seeker!

    I really liked that last shot.

    Almost all the photos on my blog have dynamic lighting as a major part.

    Check them out if you like: http://disney-photography-blog.blogspot.com/

  • raghavendra

    This is a good article.
    Light makes it all happen!

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/2010/09/candle-light.html

  • Scottc

    Great article, a useful reminder of the most important aspect of photography.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/6245112434/

  • Charles

    I so much prefer available light. I hardly ever use a flash. I did some shots of a band in a bar recently and found the best picture to be the stacked glasses because of the way the colored lights reflected in the glass.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/90353061@N00/6860193955/

  • http://gottgraphicsdesign.com Brneda

    Great article and inspirating shots. Thank you for confirmation that shooting in mid-day light is not only allowed but that it is possible to get good shots in times other than the “golden hours”.

  • http://constantphotographer.blogspot.com/ Gustavo J. Mata

    Just after reading your post I found this light, just behind my computer desk.

    http://flic.kr/p/bKVLT4

    Inspiring post!

    Gustavo J. Mata

  • http://www.gothamgirlphotography.com Robin aka Gotham Girl

    I’m a light seeker too! This is an excellent article, as usual Valerie!!

  • Paulo Lourenco

    Valerie, nice post. But would you give some hint on how to start to become a light seeker?

  • http://www.marktisdalephotography.com/introduction/ Mark E Tisdale

    Love the term “light seeker” and totally identify with it. I don’t remember when I became truly enamored with “natural” light but making use of the scene as it’s lit instead of adding lit to it via flash or lighting is my thing. And it does open your eyes. I notice that I can now somewhat predict what the lighting in a place will look like later in the day. It’s not 100% of course since you might miss that object X will block the light you were expecting to fall, but it does pay dividends often enough that I’ll still look at a place that isn’t optimal at the moment but I think the light would favor me later in the day.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/iradick/ Ira

    Call me crazy but, it’s just plain exciting to come across that perfect combination of light and shadows wherever you happen to find it. Wow ! There it is… the shot.

    Lighting has the ability to make an image more dynamic, beautiful or textural all at the same time.

  • OnyxE
  • ED

    Paulo the best way to become a light seeker in my personal opinion is get yourself a personal assigment where the main subject is the light. For this assigment you’ll stop looking for interesting things to photograph and start looking for interesting light. By looking for and composing around light you will be exploring a new world around you.

    Keep shooting .

  • Sunseeker

    LOL my user name on three websites is sunseeker!

  • http://www.gplus.to/charlieobrien Tom Leparskas

    Perfectly said! I feel like I just went through the same realisation several weeks ago. Now, I truly walk around and pay attention to the light that is all around – no matter what it is.

  • http://chasinglightphotography.zenfolio.com/ Tom

    I chase light!…from Novva Scotia to the Hawiian Islands and many places in-between! A great photograph is a combination of great composition and excellent light. I am always striving to get both of these elements in all my shots.

  • http://www.pipermackayphotography.com Piper

    Great Article Valerie and the images are stunning and inspiring.

  • Mark

    You have just inspired me as I think it is the light I have been have trouble with lately. I will look at things in a different way now.
    By the way nice photographs.
    Regards Mark

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/c_delas/ Christophe Delas

    Very interesting post.
    Great pictures

  • http://voiceconsulting.org Lydia

    I am on a string budget, yes I said string that’s exactly what it is, can’t afford the shoes. I am trying to get my business off and running, I only see a surge in the photography component around Spring. Typically I shoot outdoors as I have done well with working with outdoor lighting, but my issue is more with indoor lighting, I prefer not to use the flash, but sometimes there is no other option. I opted for a strobe effect as I have two Nikon speed lights that are also both commanders and one strobe light that can also trigger a flash. Sometimes they work beautifully together, but other times it is just a disaster; too much light or no flash. I also came across this very large flashlight that really resembles a spot light for $50.00, I thought it could potentially be useful one day. As I do not have a studio, I shoot on location, my indoor options very considerably and as a tiny woman carrying a lot of equipment has proven to be very uncomfortable and painful for my back. Any suggestions or ideas in reference to traveling with portable reliable light sources for indoor shoots?

  • http://www.valeriejardinphotography.com Valerie Jardin

    Thank you for the feedback and for sharing your images!
    @Lydia I am not sure what you shoot indoors. If you are talking weddings I can’t help you as I don’t shoot them. When I need to do an occasional indoor lifestyle portrait on location I favor window light and reflectors. Occasionally I use a strobe bounced on the opposite side of the main light source for fill light instead of the reflector.

  • http://funmommie.blogspot.com Elizabeth

    I have just started playing with the light and noticing it more. I am an amateur, but I am proud because I love photography and just getting out there and playing around!

    http://www.Explore-Disney-Resorts.com

  • http://constantphotographer.blogspot.com/ Gustavo J. Mata

    As a result of this post I assigned myself an exercise in Light Seeking. Here’s the result.

    http://constantphotographer.blogspot.com/2012/04/seeking-light.html

    Thanks again!

    Gustavo J. Mata

  • http://www.nizar.be Nizar

    When I first become aware of the importance of light in photography, I was saying to myself :
    Actually, in terms of photography, an apple in the shadow and an apple in the sunlight are two completely different fruits.

Some older comments

  • Nizar

    May 19, 2012 11:31 am

    When I first become aware of the importance of light in photography, I was saying to myself :
    Actually, in terms of photography, an apple in the shadow and an apple in the sunlight are two completely different fruits.

  • Gustavo J. Mata

    April 18, 2012 11:46 pm

    As a result of this post I assigned myself an exercise in Light Seeking. Here's the result.

    http://constantphotographer.blogspot.com/2012/04/seeking-light.html

    Thanks again!

    Gustavo J. Mata

  • Elizabeth

    April 18, 2012 04:02 pm

    I have just started playing with the light and noticing it more. I am an amateur, but I am proud because I love photography and just getting out there and playing around!

    http://www.Explore-Disney-Resorts.com

  • Valerie Jardin

    April 16, 2012 03:26 am

    Thank you for the feedback and for sharing your images!
    @Lydia I am not sure what you shoot indoors. If you are talking weddings I can't help you as I don't shoot them. When I need to do an occasional indoor lifestyle portrait on location I favor window light and reflectors. Occasionally I use a strobe bounced on the opposite side of the main light source for fill light instead of the reflector.

  • Lydia

    April 16, 2012 01:19 am

    I am on a string budget, yes I said string that's exactly what it is, can't afford the shoes. I am trying to get my business off and running, I only see a surge in the photography component around Spring. Typically I shoot outdoors as I have done well with working with outdoor lighting, but my issue is more with indoor lighting, I prefer not to use the flash, but sometimes there is no other option. I opted for a strobe effect as I have two Nikon speed lights that are also both commanders and one strobe light that can also trigger a flash. Sometimes they work beautifully together, but other times it is just a disaster; too much light or no flash. I also came across this very large flashlight that really resembles a spot light for $50.00, I thought it could potentially be useful one day. As I do not have a studio, I shoot on location, my indoor options very considerably and as a tiny woman carrying a lot of equipment has proven to be very uncomfortable and painful for my back. Any suggestions or ideas in reference to traveling with portable reliable light sources for indoor shoots?

  • Christophe Delas

    April 15, 2012 04:33 am

    Very interesting post.
    Great pictures

  • Mark

    April 14, 2012 01:06 pm

    You have just inspired me as I think it is the light I have been have trouble with lately. I will look at things in a different way now.
    By the way nice photographs.
    Regards Mark

  • Piper

    April 14, 2012 10:07 am

    Great Article Valerie and the images are stunning and inspiring.

  • Tom

    April 14, 2012 04:34 am

    I chase light!...from Novva Scotia to the Hawiian Islands and many places in-between! A great photograph is a combination of great composition and excellent light. I am always striving to get both of these elements in all my shots.

  • Tom Leparskas

    April 14, 2012 04:30 am

    Perfectly said! I feel like I just went through the same realisation several weeks ago. Now, I truly walk around and pay attention to the light that is all around - no matter what it is.

  • Sunseeker

    April 13, 2012 07:27 am

    LOL my user name on three websites is sunseeker!

  • ED

    April 13, 2012 02:13 am

    Paulo the best way to become a light seeker in my personal opinion is get yourself a personal assigment where the main subject is the light. For this assigment you'll stop looking for interesting things to photograph and start looking for interesting light. By looking for and composing around light you will be exploring a new world around you.

    Keep shooting .

  • OnyxE

    April 13, 2012 02:03 am

    I don't think I thought about 'seeking light' consciously but after awhile it seems to occur subconsciously. These are a few of my recent favorites.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marionlynne777/6863905522/in/photostream/lightbox/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marionlynne777/6863905522/in/photostream/lightbox/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marionlynne777/6920316994/in/photostream/lightbox/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marionlynne777/6915169504/in/photostream/lightbox/

  • Ira

    April 13, 2012 01:59 am

    Call me crazy but, it's just plain exciting to come across that perfect combination of light and shadows wherever you happen to find it. Wow ! There it is... the shot.

    Lighting has the ability to make an image more dynamic, beautiful or textural all at the same time.

  • Mark E Tisdale

    April 10, 2012 05:25 pm

    Love the term "light seeker" and totally identify with it. I don't remember when I became truly enamored with "natural" light but making use of the scene as it's lit instead of adding lit to it via flash or lighting is my thing. And it does open your eyes. I notice that I can now somewhat predict what the lighting in a place will look like later in the day. It's not 100% of course since you might miss that object X will block the light you were expecting to fall, but it does pay dividends often enough that I'll still look at a place that isn't optimal at the moment but I think the light would favor me later in the day.

  • Paulo Lourenco

    April 10, 2012 11:23 am

    Valerie, nice post. But would you give some hint on how to start to become a light seeker?

  • Robin aka Gotham Girl

    April 10, 2012 06:22 am

    I'm a light seeker too! This is an excellent article, as usual Valerie!!

  • Gustavo J. Mata

    April 9, 2012 11:53 pm

    Just after reading your post I found this light, just behind my computer desk.

    http://flic.kr/p/bKVLT4

    Inspiring post!

    Gustavo J. Mata

  • Brneda

    April 9, 2012 11:24 pm

    Great article and inspirating shots. Thank you for confirmation that shooting in mid-day light is not only allowed but that it is possible to get good shots in times other than the "golden hours".

  • Charles

    April 9, 2012 11:23 pm

    I so much prefer available light. I hardly ever use a flash. I did some shots of a band in a bar recently and found the best picture to be the stacked glasses because of the way the colored lights reflected in the glass.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/90353061@N00/6860193955/

  • Scottc

    April 9, 2012 10:28 pm

    Great article, a useful reminder of the most important aspect of photography.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/6245112434/

  • raghavendra

    April 9, 2012 07:04 pm

    This is a good article.
    Light makes it all happen!

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/2010/09/candle-light.html

  • Alexx

    April 9, 2012 05:03 pm

    YES!

    I am a light seeker!

    I really liked that last shot.

    Almost all the photos on my blog have dynamic lighting as a major part.

    Check them out if you like: http://disney-photography-blog.blogspot.com/

  • Steve

    April 9, 2012 04:35 pm

    Taking shots in the bright sunlight of the Mediterranean can be quite a challenge:

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Scenes-of-France/G0000BzQXTlspD3c/I0000OWpuLDB1dZo

  • Guitar Builder

    April 9, 2012 02:46 pm

    One thing I like to do is night photography. I recently had a conversation with a fellow photographer, who couldn't grasp how I took my shots.

    Kind of along the lines of a "light seeker", I often try to explain that night photography to me is more about "catching light" as opposed to "taking a photograph".

    Thanks for the great read!

  • Jeff E Jensen

    April 9, 2012 02:44 pm

    Hi, my name is Jeff, and I'm a light seeker. . . .

    Here's one of my favorites, this was on an early morning walk in Yellowstone National Park. The light was fantastic.

    http://blog.jeffejensenphotography.com/2010/02/this-is-image-that-i-took-on-trip-to.html

    And, another favorite. This one near Navajo Bridge in Arizona:

    http://blog.jeffejensenphotography.com/2010/05/desert-beauty.html

  • Buddah gurl

    April 9, 2012 02:41 pm

    P.s beautiful work Val......

  • Buddah gurl

    April 9, 2012 02:40 pm

    Without light we are painters with ink and pencil.I can't paint therefore I shoot. Im in a creative funk, I feel stuck, and sick over it... Don't know what to do. This post may help..... Its perfect for all pros and those aspiring. Bravo.

  • Mridula

    April 9, 2012 02:28 pm

    Many thanks for this post. I will try to do more with the available light. I have to say I took this picture on a day when there was fog, I processed it a bit but never expected while I was clicking that fog that it would become so interesting.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2010/12/black-winged-stilt.html

  • ccting

    April 9, 2012 02:12 pm

    Great article.. I only started to pay attention to lights a few weeks ago.. ..

  • Donald Kemp

    April 9, 2012 02:06 pm

    I always look at the light and shadows first before I think about composition. I don't know exactly when it developed that way. But it is probably one of my favorite things about photography.

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