Why Am I Playing With Lights?

Illustration of Additive Color

We learn when we play. We know that from childhood. Kids play and figure out new things. Kids play a game of kickball in the street and learn management skills, communication skills, dexterity, and lots more.

So as a nature photographer, why would I play with colored lights? It’s fun and I might learn something.

There’s this thing in the world called Additive Color. When you shine a colored light on something, the color of the object is altered. You’ve seen this in a stadium watching our favorite band. The different colored spotlights coming from different directions create interesting effects. You’ve seen the same thing at a stage play or opera. Gels are put on the spots to change a scene from dawn to sunset.

We’re taught in grade school that when all the colors are added together we get white. Well, I tried coloring with all the crayons and never got white. That’s because crayons or paint have pigments and subtractive color happens. Mix a lot of colors of paint together and you eventually get black or maybe “yulk.” Pigment doesn’t work the same as light.

Project a blue beam of light over a red beam of light and we get magenta where there’s overlap. Project green beam of light over a red beam of light and we get yellow where there’s overlap. Project that same green beam of light over blue and we get cyan.

Notice that my example uses Red, Green, and Blue. That’s RGB color — one of the choices of a photograph’s color space. You know RGB color from your computer or the back of your camera.

Additive Color is used in portrait photography but not often in nature photography.

Background (Skip ahead if you’re not interested)– I’m a “mentor” to a photography group with some really advanced photographers. There are four “mentors” and we give the photographers assignments at the beginning of the year. That’s 12 total assignments for the year. My January 2022 assignment was “Additive Color.” I didn’t give any explanation or help. Just two words. One of the photographers, James Woody, created a photograph for the assignment of red, green, and blue lights pointing at a crystal ball. You might know that I love crystal ball photography so I had to try my hand at recreating James’s photo.

This is the photo James Woody created.
My photo of a crystal ball with
red light from the left, green light in the middle, and blue light on the right.
Just the blue and green lights.
Notice the flaw from the crystal ball in the left shadow.
Different camera angle.
Another camera angle.

Thanks to James Woody for the inspiration for these photos. Visit James’ website to get some inspiration of your own. www.jrwoodyphotography.com

Author: kathyadamsclark

Professional photographer leading workshops and tours.

2 thoughts on “Why Am I Playing With Lights?”

  1. I love this. I didn’t get into Photography seriously until I retired then six years later I got my first DLSR camera. I take tons of photos and have improved tremendously. I was told about your site here and I love taking photos through and also do light painting. I haven’t done it in awhile, but I’m inspired again with your talk about colored lights. Thank you for inspiring me to pick it back up. I did trail off into the abstract photography, and love that too, but I’ve run into trouble being creative again. So again thank you and I look forward to checking out your work and James Woody’s work.

    Like

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