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Dark and Light? The Art of Subject

Story in Photography

By Harrison GalgutPublished 5 years ago 3 min read
Top Story - April 2019
Nikon D750, ISO 125, 50mm, f/1.8, 1/100th

We all know about light and how it interacts with a camera. We all know that black and white are dangerous places to play in when editing.

Sometimes we all make mistakes when adjusting our shadows and highlights.

The picture above is not a mistake in my view, this portrait is not about showing the person like a business portrait is (see below).

Nikon D750, ISO 50, 85mm, 1/200

That image is more about creating a mood within a frame. I used some clever techniques to make this happen.

Firstly I did not expose for her, I knew how I wanted the image when I started the shot. If I had it would look more like this.

Seeing the Shot

Firstly, I did not expose for her, I knew how I wanted the image when I started the shot. If I had it would look more like that (see above). I believe that it lost its emotion and mood just to have the face properly exposed, and you don't get a nice portrait of her.

You: "Ah, but your white balance is so far off it is causing other issues in the image which is ruining it."

Okay, okay, let's look at white balance, the colours in this image are all thrown off to red and blue as that helps the mood in the original.

With the White Balance "as Shot" and the Original Exposure

And White Balance as Shot but the Revised Exposure

I will accept that the as shot and brighter exposure does not look bad but it still does not contain the mood and emotion of the original shot.

For reference to all, I used auto white balance on my Nikon D750.

How Our Eyes Work

Just to Remind You of the Original Shot

Humans are great at seeing patterns and shapes, be that in numbers or images or even walking around. It is why we can see a split second shot of Richard Branson in Casino Royale and know its him.

Or how some of you can read this:

It deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a whole.

Our eyes are drawn to the person in the light and not the light, Neon lights also have a lovely glow to them which a lot of other light sources lack. So we now have a subject defined by the light source. and we have a lot of negative space which gives room to let your eyes wander.

The next segment to this shot is that the colour of light has meaning, red is generally associated with love and anger. As it is a woman wearing a short dress and coat standing in the red glow it gives a little more of a crude feel, especially in the darkness. She is alone with her red light.

Location, Location, Location

Same Girl, Same Emotion, Different Location

Photographing in a documentary style isn't about getting photographs of random stuff going on to tell a story through a group of images. It is, at least in my opinion, about getting that one image that tells a whole story. The image above has a similar feel to it, in the way it is trying to be crude, but it is obviously staged and in a studio, so it starts to lack a sense of authenticity the other holds onto so perfectly. Although they are both staged.


This image was also taken in a studio setting but the crude kind of emotion is more prevalent and it exists because we don't know what else she is wearing or what is under the fur she is holding ground herself, this gives the image more mystique.

I have ventured off topic so I will digress.

Shadow is not just the lack of light. It is the ability to make a space where nothing is happening. This is making a situation where your brain and mind don't need to interpret any information or imagine what is there.


Why is this a good photo?

The viewer does not engage with the subject due to a lack of eye contact, this leads to wanting to understand or know what the subject is thinking about. The mystery created in the shot adds to the mystery of the subject's thoughts, where the red neon sign starts to create an idea of what they could be thinking about. The red glow adds more of a lewd set of ideals seem into the image. As neon has a very soft quality to it making our subject look more innocent creating a juxtaposition across the frame.

Her short dress adds to the lewd feeling and the coat also makes us see more that she may not be used to this kind of action.

Or I have just overthought a whole image far too much. The point I'm trying to put across (quite badly) is that everything in a picture affects the result. So use framing, cropping, and every other trick to tell the story you want with your image.

Feel free to contact me with your comments or thoughts on this image.


About the Creator

Harrison Galgut

Professional Wedding, Events and Portrait Photographer. Always looking for new experiences and people to meet. Have a look at my work:

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