portrait conceptual photography in soft light

How Light Impacts an Image

Why Light Matters

If you look at paintings by masters like Caravaggio or Rembrandt, you will notice their exquisite attention to detail and light.
Light plays such an important role in visual arts because it can shape and change the whole atmosphere of a work. I want to show you a clear example of how a photograph came out wrong because of bad light.

Natural Light Photography Disaster

A couple of years ago I took an experimental jewellery class at the academy and decided to create a photo as my final work. With the help of my dad (who always somehow ends up ”assisting” for projects) I collected bits and pieces of green, yellow, brown and white glass that had been thrown ashore by the sea.

I wanted to create the photo I had in mind on the beach, so my friend and I went to the nearest inlet where that whole shoot was about to happen. When we were leaving the house I thought of taking an umbrella with me; it looked like it might rain outside. Surprise, surprise! On the beach not only did the clouds disappear, but the sun was madly shining. I was counting on clouds acting as a giant diffuser, but the sudden change of weather made any photo attempt time-wasting.

Of course, I was so stubborn on having that photo that I spent a good hour trying to make it (with horrendous results) and, on top of that, got a bad sunburn.


girl on beach portrait photography in bad light
This is one of the photos that have gone wrong. I couldn’t even open my eyes so I kept staring at the ground and the harsh sunlight created unwanted shadows.


Angry and disappointed, my goal was to recreate the image in my garden later in the evening, hoping for better results. The soft light beautifully lit my face and all the glass pieces I had glued on it. The green grass provided a lovely, unobtrusive background that wrapped the whole feel of the final photo.

portrait conceptual photography in soft light
This was the final image I submitted to my jewellery professor. Notice the huge difference from the one I had made only hours previously. The soft evening light flattered my face and the theme.

To sum it up: learn from my mistakes. If you’re working with natural light it’s so important to catch the best time of day for the shoot. It’s a waste of both the model’s and the photographer’s time, as well as of the idea, to shoot in the wrong lighting conditions. Always keep in mind that you can’t help a bad photo in Photoshop and do your best to achieve the wanted result in camera.


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