ON THE QUALITY OF LIGHT – a conversation Richard Akroyd and James Allan

Hi Richard

Thanks  for your suggestion.  I whole heatedly agree and was thinking of commissioning an article on the quality of light.

Do you think we can describe the quality of light?

Some of this is already well known from flash photography, like the direction of light, (Back lit, side lit, front lit), the colour (warm and cool) and the focus of the light – (harsh or soft).

However there are many other effects, like atmospheric dispersion, sun beams etc, the effect of distance, hot air effects (fires and mirages), dappling, reflected light, refraction (rainbows), luminecence and when light lands on the lens – lens flare.

Sometimes I think we get our most interesting or dynamic shots when the light is behaving badly.  Some of these effects are our enemy – sometimes they are that special something that makes the image work.

I went through a period where I stopped using the lens hood to prevent light from hitting the lens.  What I got was lens flare.  It’s a bit like feedback in music.  Usually it’s a nuisance – but Jimmy Hendrix didn’t see it that way.  It’s really interesting to make it part of the image.  (I’ll send you a few examples)

The latest Star Trek movie made a name for itself for with what some call an overuse of lens flare.  (Personally I love it).


Have you any thoughts on the subject?


NB – My rsearch on Notan and Chiaroscuro has come up with this description.


Example of Notan

The girl with the pearl earing

Example of chiaroscuro

  • Notan is a Japanese design concept that places dark against light
  • Chiaroscuro is an art concept arising in the Renaissance where strong contrasts between light and dark are used to model 3 dimensional form.



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