Are You A Light Seeker?

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!

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Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram. And listen to my Podcast!

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.

    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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

    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.

  • Scottc April 9, 2012 10:28 pm

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

  • raghavendra April 9, 2012 07:04 pm

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

  • Alexx April 9, 2012 05:03 pm


    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:

  • Steve April 9, 2012 04:35 pm

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

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.