I am obsessed about light. Like every professional photographer who loves the art of making an image — one who is not just clicking away and hoping to snag keepers. But there's something you must know about obsessions. Your life will no longer be the same, and how you see the world will change.
Long before I knew anything about photography, walking into a room and sitting there meant nothing but doing just that. A cloudy day was just a cloudy day, perhaps stretching my imagination as far as to think that there might be a shower. And, the function of a window was to stay open or closed, depending on what time of the day it was.
I hadn’t met light then and I wasn’t in love with it.
Strangely, most of us don’t pick up our first camera and start obsessing about light. Isn’t that ironic, since light is the essence of photography? I was riding the same wave…for a very long time. At some point, you realize that you don’t really love your pictures anymore. Not that you aren’t putting any effort into making the picture, but it becomes clear eventually that it is all effort and no deliberation.
The more you try to figure out what’s wrong with your pictures, the sooner you’ll realize it’s the absence of the most important ingredient in a good picture. Light.
Watching the work of some great photographers can break your confidence. It isn’t a bad thing. Personally, the fact that I knew I have a long way to go turbocharged my drive to be a better photographer. I wasn’t willing to sit around and wait for good pictures to happen. I wanted the same joint they were smoking. I wanted to be addicted — to light.
When you’re obsessed about light, among the first things you learn is its variety. This characteristic is what makes it so fascinating. Light a person from the front and you have a well-lit picture that tells you how he looks. Light him from behind, and you’re now adding mystery to his character. Light him from below, and there’s an ominous tone to his presence.
What I love most about wedding photography is that I get to be the storyteller. And, I get to choose the tools that help me write the story. For all the variety that light offers, you’ll never run out of perspectives.
The image above is one of my favorites. For the simple reason that I didn’t just walk into the room and click away.
I am equally comfortable with artificial light (speedlights, video lights, and such) and daylight. But, given a choice, I’d choose the light that streams in through a window…any day. Not daylight in the open, but daylight that I can control to a large degree.
The window in the groom’s room had two curtains — the regular thick, opaque one and a soft white diffusing layer beneath. I had a choice of opening the curtains entirely and letting beautiful light diffused by the inner curtain fall on the groom’s face. That would’ve been an easy picture to make. The diffusion would control the contrast, and I could control the amount of light by moving the groom closer to or away from the window.
But then obsession took over. I had a different picture in my head. So, I closed the opaque layer until just a sliver of light fell on the groom’s face and body. Also, by controlling the light and shadows, I made sure there was three-dimensionality to the image. By moving the groom closer to the window, the light falling on the wall behind was also pretty minimal.
I love the image because I chose to make it this way. By using beautiful light.