There are many important factors that build together to make photography happen, but it can be said that there is one magical factor that is the most important of all. Light.
Of course, light is one of the essential factors of life on earth, but in photography terms, it is light that is the magic. How light is controlled, whether natural or artificial, is what gives us the range of images that we make with our cameras.
The colour, quantity and angle of natural light changes throughout the day, and as a photographer you are challenged to make the most of what that light gives you, and to be the artist that uses that light to great effect. You can manipulate the light around and on the object of your task to make differing images of that same object.
In addition to natural light we have the option of artificial light to create or enhance our vision of what we want to produce. The addition of flashes, strobes, diffusers and deflectors help us add extra ingredients to our vision if they are required. The use of only artificial light has artistic possibilities too.
Observation is the best skill that a photographer can develop. As light affects the mood, balance, texture and even the shape of what it falls on, the ability to see the full extent of what is in front of the camera and translate it to something unique is what gives the picture its character.
You can use the effect of light to its greatest by using the main subject matter as the reflector or the obstructer, or in the case of a number of objects, a combination of both. For example, a backlit photograph of the sun setting behind treetops will create a wonderful atmospheric silhouette.
In another situation a well-lit family portrait will have a number of strategically placed strobes to give the foreground the vibrancy and character that the portrait requires. A single light source in a lowlight situation can be the most creative. A light source landing on an object from the side can leave part of that object in complete shadow creating a mysterious and intriguing shot.
It is important not to be afraid of light as a budding photographer as it is there to be taken advantage of. As a photographer, light has to be thought of as the brush for a painting. You can use the brush with different techniques to achieve a range of results. It is the same with light.