Photography, Light And Lighting

To me, In photography, light and lighting are different. While creating photographs is what we do as photographers, light, and lighting are things to consider when we are doing our photography.

Many photographers tell me that they want to learn about “lighting.” When I ask them what they mean by lighting, it winds up that they want to learn about light.

Photography Light And Lighting


When I think about the meaning of the word photography, it means observing and recording light to communicate facts, concepts, or feelings.


In short, light is what enables us to see. But when we see the light, we see the light as different things.  Specifically, we see “light sources.” Comparatively,  I consider light sources to be either “transmitting/illuminating” or “reflective.”

Transmitting/Illuminating Light Sources

To be clear, I use the words transmitting and illuminating interchangeably. Sometimes, photographers describe this type of light source light as an “incident” or “available” light.

Examples of transmitting/illuminating light: those light bulbs that you buy at the store, that big bright thing in the sky that keeps us alive, the candle flames that set the atmosphere for a romantic dinner.  Well, they’re ALL transmitting or illuminating light sources.  And they’re necessary for us to see (and photograph) things.

If there weren’t illuminating light sources we’d be walking around in the dark, bumping into stuff.  Of course, we’d be bumping into stuff we couldn’t see. Or, to use the words in this article, we’d be bumping into stuff that wasn’t reflecting the light being transmitted by an illuminating light source.

Reflective Light Sources

Reflective light sources appear to us as everything an illuminating light source affects. For example, trees, people, mountains, buildings, cars, etc. Because these things reflect light, we can see them and photograph them. However,  some of the transmitted light is absorbed by the reflective object.


If light deals with what we see, I think lighting deals with equipment/gear that transmits light or is used to manipulate light. In comparison, light is an observation, while lighting manipulates what we observe.


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Photography Light And Lighting

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