The Emotion of Light

Any effective image should evoke emotion — whether it be a sense of a bright, summer’s day or a darker sense of mystery — and it is only through careful use of light that we can achieve that.

This in-depth chapter details everything from the theory and physics of light to the human perception of color. Karl reviews a number of images from his portfolio to show how two photographs with the same model and light source can look completely different.

He then goes on to demonstrate these principles, exploring the effects of directional lighting, various lighting modifiers and the effect of the inverse square law.

This photography class is a must-watch for those wanting to understand the emotion of light and how to use it to best effect. More information on the theory of light can be found in Chapter One of our portrait photography section.

In this live photography show, you’ll cover:

  • Human visual response to light
  • Theory of colour — juxtaposing and complementary colours and their effects
  • Directional light and its impact
  • How to control shadows
  • Using negative fill to control light
  • Simulating sunlight with a single light
  • How to control light in small studio spaces
  • Using reflectors and flags
  • Lighting modifiers and their effects
  • The best modifiers for soft light
  • How to work with and balance multiple lights
  • Four different lighting setups for effective portrait photography

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below.


  1. cgodinger

    Hi! Thank you so much for the amazing clarity!
    I’m a portrait photographer, mainly focused on family and baby photography, shooting in a small studio and I was never able to get my flash lighting right. As I’m watching this, I’m loving the soft light that you get when putting the softbox really close to the model. I’m wondering how I can get that same style of soft light, when working with children and families, wider shots for groups, and when I can’t have the softbox and reflector so close due to a child moving around and me needing to capture the candid shots as well. I’m also wondering how I can make sure that the light stays in the correct position and angle when he children and babies move around constantly? Right now, I’ve also been working with a 6 foot umbrella with a cover, mimicking a softbox, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s doing the job….
    Thank you so much.

  2. jeahn

    Hi Karl! I’ve noticed you prefer to handhold the camera for portrait work a lot of the time. Is there a reason for this like having the flexibility to work with the model and their slight movements? Just curious as I rent to use a tripod a lot but maybe in missing out on some organic compositions?

    1. Hi Jeahn, yes for me with models, fashion, portraiture a tripod becomes too restrictive in case the model moves and slightly left, right, up or down becomes a better view.

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