what is light – understanding light in photography

What is light


Best way to understand light is through visualization of what is light and how it travels in space.

Light is coming from a variety of sources and it is all around us. It comes from any object or matter that transmits energy like the sun, fire, melted metal, volcano lava, or man made, light bulbs, light torches, candles. even your phone. Light is everywhere and without light, life is not possible

Trying to explain this as simple as possible, light is a combination of electromagnetic wave and particles called photons. Photons are emitted by the light source in large numbers and they travel through space until they hit something. They are traveling in a flow, just like rain but they travel from the source in all directions, not just one direction like the rain falls from the sky down. They travel as a flow but in waves, just like the water waves in a lake when you though a rock and you see those circles. But the waves are spherical, not just in one place like the surface of the lake. there are also lights that travel in one direction just like the rain and those will be lasers, but this is not our topic today and it becomes to complicated.

what is light

Coming back, these photons are emitted by the light source in huge numbers until they hit an object when they bounce. Now here is the thing. They bounce back in all directions, spreading again in space.  This is not like the ball bouncing on a surface as you might be used to visualise, as light is big number of particles, as each photon hits the surface and jumps into a different angle with a different energy , in different waves. Trying to picture that a surface of an object is actually not flat but each individual atom is an entity that has a shape, not sure cause I have not seen one, but I would try to represent it with few balls. photons are very small in comparison with these atoms, and come in large numbers and they jump back in all directions. That phenomenon is called reflection. These photons are going in all directions and they hit another object and jump again. We receive many of the photons from everywhere arounds us and these photons penetrate our eyes and hit the back of forming the image that our brain understand, but this is the subject of the next tutorial.

So just in few words, photons are send by the light source, hit an object and they bounce, and we can see those ones that bounce in our direction, towards our eyes.

We cannot see the ones who go somewhere else.

Each material in this world has different properties and the light bounces differently, and that is why we see colours, textures materials and so on. We are going to stop here with this explanation as I am already concerned I have got to deep, and my intention is to show you a way of visualizing what  is going on




About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and owner and principal photographer of Tudor Photography