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Deconstructing Light

A Guest post by Tanya Dyhin.

Light is fundamental to our existence as human beings. Light – electromagnetic radiation, is also fundamental to photography and the creation of the image.

Learning to visually deconstruct light, its qualities, its temperature and direction can help you to better develop your photography skills. As light makes up such a fundamental part of our lives we tend to become used to it as it becomes part our subconscious understanding of the world. To develop your photography skills and your ability to identify suitable photographic situations, settings and composition, begin to deconstruct the light you see around you, and the light in other peoples photographs.

What is the light like in the morning?

What is the light like as a thunderstorm rolls in?

What unusual and creative light sources do you have around the house that could be used in creating interesting and unusual portraits?

Take a look at your favourite photographs – where is the light in relation to the subject and the photographer?

What kind of mood has been created by the light in the photograph?

One of my all time favourite examples of an unrivalled understanding of this fundamental aspect of photography is Elliot Erwitt. Erwitt is heralded as a photographer whose skill extended beyond the ability to expose a perfect silhouette or window lit photograph, to being able to capture the decisive moment as it happened before his eyes.


Erwitt’s photographs served as a great influence when I first began to engage with photography, and continue as a great source of inspiration both technically, and in his ability to capture the essence of his subject. In the fraction of the second his images were taken, Erwitt had the ability to compose his images with a great sophistication and elegance.


Erwitt’s photographs were shot on black and white film; While the technology that we use to capture light has changed, the nature of light itself has not. The same rules apply when deconstructing and analysing light.

Consider some of these lighting and textural characteristics next time you head out with a camera. Hopefully you will uncover something that had previously existed simply as part of your subconscious that suddenly becomes part of your
conscious considerations of the world.

Afternoon Light

Image: Image by gaab22

Image by gaab22

Diffuse Light

Image: Image by Tanya Dyhin :

Image by Tanya Dyhin :

Image: Image by Tanya Dyhin

Image by Tanya Dyhin

Direct Light

Image: Image by By Tanya Dyhin

Image by By Tanya Dyhin

Backlight/Side Light

Image: Image by tomo908us

Image by tomo908us

Image: Image by Victor Bezrukov

Image by Victor Bezrukov

Dappled Light

Image: Image by By Tanya Dyhin

Image by By Tanya Dyhin

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