L V Prasad College of Media Studies

Observing Light


Evening Lights

“If you observe this photograph taken with a phone camera, it shows 4 light zones.

  1.  The distant Sky in the frame which is bright & colourful.
  2.  The much less brighter podium lights creating warm coloured pools and white light reflections on the floor and steps.
  3.  The florescent tube-light from the house casting blue-green cast on the balcony grill in foreground.
  4.  The toppish overall blue skylight (from outside the frame) that is spread all over like a fill light.

It is the combination of these different hued (different colour temperatures) light qualities that make this photograph interesting.”

Cinematography and Photography is the Art of recording images. The images can be still images or moving images – Photographs or Film or Video.

You all know, to record these images, Cinematographers use a Camera & Lens. Without camera & lens how can you record any images. The camera can be a highly advanced camera that is used to make memorable films or it can simply be the camera on your mobile phone. But you know something? A Good Shot or a Good Photograph is not taken by the camera but the eye behind the camera. The Cinematographer who uses the equipment is the one who takes the good shot. So what is it that these good cinematographers have that makes them excel? Answer to this question is that these good cinematographers train their eyes to see things photographically. And to see things we need light. Understanding light; knowing how it behaves or creates an impression or an image is very important in Photography & Cinematography. These good Cinematographers learn to Observe Light and use that learning to create impressive shots and images and become famous. Let me briefly explain what is meant by Observing Light.

By observing light, we are training our eyes to see the quality, intensity, colour and angle of the light. We know that we see light at the source or only if it is reflected off any other surface. The surface of the objects reflect light and that is why we see them. At the same time when the opaque objects reflect light they are also blocking the light from going ahead. This blocking is what casts a shadow. And the shadow helps us define the shape and the 3 dimensionality (depth) of the object. So when we are observing light we also have to observe the shadows. The shadows will reveal the shape, the depth, the texture, the 3 dimensionality of the object the light is falling on.

As a user of the camera and as a Cinematographer we have to learn to show the objects (and subjects too) in the frame in the best possible manner needed for the storytelling / film. And to show the objects in a manner needed for the film, the cinematographer is required to decide how or when the light will fall on the object in a particular angle so he can make the object look the way he wants. This needs practice, training of the eye and of course, observation. L V Prasad Film & Television Academy is here to help you learn how to observe light and take impressive shots for films.

Niranjan Thade

Dean Academics – Bengaluru

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