Saturday, September 1, 2012

Light, Wrong or Right

There are techniques in play amongst amateurs which render the light in a photograph muddled, wrong, or completely meaningless. Chief amongst these is HDR, but you can do the same sort of thing with localized adjustments of various sorts. You can also do it in-camera by hosing the subject down with strobes.

The goal generally seems to be to reveal detail all over the subject. The result is weird looking "light."

What's really odd is that a lot of people like the result. They literally don't seem to see that the light is all wrong. My theory (which I've mentioned before specifically with regard to HDR) is that the younger generation has grown up with video games and animation, which often seem to render with everything lit from nowhere. There might be key lights in play, but shadows are more often added for effect than allowed to fall naturally as empty regions in the frame.

So what if I don't like it? So what if old buggers with ideas hate it? If pretty much every actual person sees no problem with this bizarro lighting then, more or less by definition, there is no problem with it. In a way we already see this in commercial photography, but subtly applied. The real skill -- today -- in a pro is revealing all the detail without making the light look wrong. Is the not-wrong requirement about to vanish? Arguably it should. If nobody in the market cares or can even see when light is weird and wrong, why bother making it look right? Will American Apparel come out with a campaign that makes it look like the models are all in some first person shooter? To be honest, I hope so. That would be bitchin'. I'd hate the work, but I'd love the concept.

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