Light shaping in it's simplest form. / by Dawn Webb

Every night I go into the bathroom I can't help to notice the picture on my wall, I have studied it quite a bit recently, I look at the way the light falls, the shadow, the texture, the shape.

Aren't these the basics of light/shadow when looking at photography?

I will always remember a great photographic teacher of mine when I sat City & guilds and he said " Steve you must first photograph the light before you photograph your subject" until the last few years I never really understand what he meant, until I got heavily involved in Black & White work.


We have two lights - one above and one on the other side of the wall opposite the picture in our bathroom.
When the light on the far wall is on the picture looks flat, lifeless and dull.  When the light above is switched on the picture comes alive, you now see texture and form - this is what my teacher meant all of those years ago - "see the light"

So many photographers fail to light their subjects correctly or effectively - lighting need not be expensive or complicated, it just needs to work for the subject.

I often use a simple directional table lamp to light my portraits when I shoot in Black & White, cheap but effective.
Ok yes you can spend £3k on Profoto lamps and have sublime quality, but this isn't always the case if all you want to do is show form, texture, shape, shadows in Black & White.

This is something I always harp onto with my students -  SEE THE LIGHT!

Going to the bathroom has never been so much fun, now I know why ladies go so often ( and they always said it was to powder their noses)


So as you can see the image on the left shows form, texture, shadow and a more defined shape - this is a result of very simple but effective lighting - see if you can dissect the image and light, working out direction etc.

The image on the right is flat, look at the shadow below the picture to determine direction and hardness in the Umbra ( Shadow) compared to the image on the right.