Unravelling the Mysteries of Photographic Light

As fundamental as it is to our photography, light remains a mystery to many of us. We know good light, we know bad light, and we know how this affects our images, but do we truly understand light? This video by Karl Taylor breaks light into four defined types: transmitted, reflected, soft light, and hard light. As well as talking about these four types, Karl goes on to demonstrate how we can harness our knowledge to improve the quality of our images:

Karl describes what to look for in each type of light and explains where each type is likely to come from.

Hard Light

  • Can be from any source that appears small and intense
  • The sun on a clear day is a prime example
  • Produces a high contrast range and sharp, dark shadows
  • The light can have a certain clarity due to the contrast

Soft Light

  • Soft light comes from a large diffused source
  • An obvious example is clouds on an overcast day, diffusing the sunlight
  • Casts little or no shadows
  • Can look flat if not used correctly

Transmitted Light

  • Transmitted light is where the source of the light is seen in the image, for example shooting the sun at sunrise

Reflected Light

  • Reflected light is light that is reflected from a surface such as water or a mirror.

Beautiful landscape photography

Karl demonstrates a combination of all four of these light types whilst shooting a landscape shot on a remote beach, talking us through the advantages of each. Later in the video he goes on to demonstrate how to use this knowledge of light in a studio portrait session using light from a window and a large reflector.

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