Here’s how to use light to convey different emotions in your work

Jun 23, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Here’s how to use light to convey different emotions in your work

Jun 23, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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There are plenty of factors that can convey the emotion want to express through your image. While light is one of the essential components for creating a photo in the first place – it also contributes a lot when it comes to the emotional impact. In this video, Jay P. Morgan shares four aspects of light that help communicate the emotion in your work. He will teach you how to use them and turn light into a powerful tool for conveying emotions in your photos and video.

YouTube video

I like the way Jay explains the relation between light and darkness. Essentially, light makes us happy, relaxed and at ease, it’s familiar to us. At the same time, darkness makes us uneasy and people and generally scared of dark. Combining these two in a right way can make an impact on the viewer and express your message more clearly. There are four components you should pay attention to when setting up the light for your shots, and these are: contrast (ratio), quality, color and direction of light.

Contrast or ratios

Contrast or the ratios of light and dark can tell a lot about the message you want to convey. A setup with strong contrast puts a half of the subject’s face in the shadow, creating a sense of mystery, intrigue, even evil. Contrary to that, soft light with low contrast makes the subject appear peaceful or happy.

Quality of light

Contrast (ratios) and quality of light are similar concepts at the first sight, but they do slightly differ. For example, you can leave the light of the same ratio, but add a modifier and make the transition and shadows less harsh. Softer, high quality light still creates drama, but adds more “warmth” to the shot. Harder and lower quality light is also dramatic, but the harsh shadows are more edgy.

Color of light

Colors affect our emotions in all sorts of ways and in different kinds of art, and photography is no exception. Even the language can get “colorful” and express the emotions through them. So, depending on the color of light you use for your photos, you can make an impact on the emotion you want to depict.

Warm orange/yellow light creates a sense of warmth and positive emotions. On the contrary, the light with blueish tones creates the sense of sadness, depression, even menace.

Direction of light

The direction of light is another important factor of conveying emotion. We mentioned it in the tips for portrait lighting that the light should be above the subject, at about 45 degrees. It’s natural for us that the light comes from above, so this position is the most balanced and makes the viewer feel comfortable.

But when we move the light to be below the subject, it creates harsh and unnatural shadows that make the subject look vicious and makes the viewer feel uncomfortable. This is often referred to as “horror lighting,” and indeed, it creates a feeling of a horror movie, unease, and suspense.

Although the light above the subject is the most natural, if we push it too above, you create a similar effect to the horror lighting. It also creates harsh shadows, and can make the viewer feel uneasy.

So, these were the four important components of light and the ways they can affect the motion of your photos. Although these are some basic rules, they still allow you virtually endless possibilities. I hope you’ll find this guide helpful for your photo and video work, and of course – keep on exploring and experimenting.

[Laws of Light: How Light Conveys Emotion | The Slanted Lens]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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