What exactly does "reading the light" mean?

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
MarshallG Veteran Member • Posts: 7,223
Re: What exactly does "reading the light" mean?

contadorfan wrote:

Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. Seems that the ability to read the light comes solely through long experience.

It takes effort to understand. First you need to understand what you’re looking for, and then you need to put in the effort. I can say with certainty that many photographers never begin to understand, because I’ve written about it dozens of times here, with examples, and many, many times, people dismiss it as irrelevant.

Seeing the light is much, much more important than your equipment in producing good photographs. Amsel Adams produces some of the greatest photographs ever using 8x10 view cameras. The only electrical product he used was a lightbulb

You can actually learn this from Ansel’s books, and by looking at his Zone System, although that was his end-to-end model which included printmaking.

One thing he wrote about, which really stuck with me, was when he first visualized how the print would turn out when he took the photograph. Although this applies to all the elements of your photo, it's really important with light. The photograph will not represent light the way your eyes see it.

It has a little to do with your exposure settings, but mostly, your camera has almost nothing to do with it. What’s most important is the nature of the light, and the most important part, I think, is how contrasty the light has. Well-diffused, scattered light will almost always produce a much better photograph than very direct light. Cameras just don’t handle high contrast as well as our eyes and the best results always always come when the lighting is best.

I’d be happy to explain more if you wish; it’s a huge subject and the most important thing is to understand that the camera or the software cannot fix bad lighting and the best results come from the best light, not the best camera. In all the photos below, it’s the light that makes them stand out.

 MarshallG's gear list:MarshallG's gear list
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8L II USM Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM +2 more
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