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Improving the Light

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of any photograph. The illumination helps shape the scene and gives definition to the subject. It can render an image flat and two dimensional in low-contrast light, or it can carve out distinct depth and dimensionality with high-contrast light that lets the image pop off the page. In most cases, once you've pressed the shutter button and exposed the image, you have to live with the general quality of the light that the Fates gave you when you were making your photographs, as it determines overall structure of shadows, highlights, and dimensional depth for the elements in your image. You can't, for instance, take an image that was photographed in the low- contrast lighting of overcast skies and use Photoshop to transform it into a sun-drenched scene accented by strong, deep shadows and bright, sparkling highlights. You can, however, make substantial modifications and improvements by selectively manipulating the existing tones within your image to add depth, place emphasis on certain areas, and suggest an emotional interpretation. It is through this manipulation of the light and dark areas in the image that you can improve or alter the quality of the light in the image.

The Importance of Luminosity

If you take an image and break it down into its most fundamental components, you are left with the brightness values of the pixels, also known as luminosity, and the color values. In a black and white photograph, of course, you only have luminosity, the varying tonality of the gray values, to describe the image. Of these two components that make up your images, luminosity is by far the most important. If you remove all of the color from an image, you still have the brightness values, the mosaic of light and dark and middle-toned pixels that give form to the image. We see this image as black and white, but all of the intricate detail is still present, and with the exception of the color, the image looks the same. But if you could somehow remove the brightness from an image, leaving only the color values, then it would look much different, and in many cases, it would be difficult to even tell what was pictured in the photo.


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