“Where does your light comes from?” is a question I ask myself when I paint or apply artistic effect to a photo.
Why does light matter in images?
While painting or drawing a clear point from which the subject is illuminated helps you establish dimension. It also makes your image more visually appealing. It helps to focus the eye on a certain part of the image which draws the viewer in. In other words it helps to establish a focus point.
When your image has a clear focus point, it will hold the attention of the viewer for longer. Images that make you feel are the ones that really capture your viewer.
Take a look at these examples. All the images are created from the same basic photograph of a dead tree. The picture was taken in natural sunlight, in direction with the sun.
Image 1 is the photo as it was before any lighting or visual effects where applied.
It is a pretty interesting tree. Take note of how the shadow falls. But in itself this image does not really capture the viewer’s eye.
Now let’s look at the same picture with some artistic effect applied.
Image 2 leaves open more interpretation to the viewer. The background is vaguer and the color scheme is different.
Now let me take image 2 and only apply a lighting effect to it.
Your eye’s focus is different. Of all these three images which one captures your gaze for just a little bit longer?
It is the same with writing. A book that engages the readers’ emotion rather than his intellect is a master piece of pure genius.
What does light teach you about writing?
The light in an image can be viewed as your point of view in writing. From where is your writing directed?
There are three main types of writing perspective.
- First person perspective
- Third person perspective
First person perspective
A book written in first person perspective shines the light on only those aspects that the protagonist can see. The entire book universe is told from his or her perspective, which leaves many places completely in the dark. Another character is seen only as your protagonist sees them. Places are seen only as your protagonist sees them. The reader becomes intimately accustomed to the protagonist’s way of thinking and knowledge. The Reader feels what your protagonist is feeling; he sees what your protagonist is seeing. Or at least as a talented writer this is what you aim to achieve by using this point of view.
Image 4 is a good example of first person perspective.
This is still the very same tree. However just look what difference it makes viewing only a part of that picture and different color scheme applied. Part of that tree is almost in your face.
Omnipresent is like a picture with no clear indication of where your light is coming from. You can see everything. It gives you a lot of information, yet little emotional engagement. Image 1 would be a good example of an omnipresent. If I were to write a few lines in omnipresent narrative about Image 1 it would sound something like:
The think branches of the dead tree were all that remained of the once flourishing camel thorn. Indigenous to this area, it had died decades ago when the water table of the ground water started to drop. The sun had beat down on those branches leaving them almost blackened as they are dry.
Yay! Now you have read a lecture on the Namibian Flora. I bet that was real interesting! (Note the sarcasm)
Third person perspective
Third person perspective has the ability to jump from one head to another. Yet this is not advisable. A scene is much more interesting told from one perspective only. In this way you can get just as intimate as the first person perspective. Yet you can also move away and gain distance from the story as needed.
Image 2 is a good example of third person perspective with some distance, while Image 3 captures the intimacy of telling it from one person’s point of view. You tell your story from in the third person tone, while coloring your narrative with the emotions of the protagonist of the scene.
If I were to write a sentence on image 3 it would be something like:
“Come keep me company!” it called into the harsh wind. No response. If only the menacing sun would stop beating it, with her harsh rays. If only… its thoughts trailed off.
Go with the light
When you are taking a photograph in natural light, it is advisable to photograph with the light not against it. The same applies for writing. Go with the point of view you are portraying. Make it work for your story. Show your reader only those aspects which he needs to see at that time. A picture with a few dark areas makes for far more an interesting image than one which shines a light on everything at once.
Show the reader only an aspect of the character of a person. They don’t need to know the entire history of that person for your story to work. Similarly if you are describing a place or an aspect of how society functions. Back-story has a way of killing the flow of your front story. It interrupts your tale rather than advancing it. Your aims as a fiction writer must be to engage your reader’s emotions, without letting him or her know you are even there doing it. Let the reader live the story not read it.
I’m currently reading “self-editing for fiction writers”. It is an excellent book for writers to understand this craft.
About the Author:
Born and raised in the African Desert country Namibia (where she currently lives), Serins often sat on the peaks of the Dunes watching the ocean tide drift in. Writing is both a passion and a calling for her. She sees it as the method by which to bring phantasy into reality.
Serins will dabble in all types of creative writing, such as poetry to fiction. She is an open minded human being who will enchant you with her flair and creativity. What’s more being a creative spirit she paints and loves photography, often combining these two interests into masterful artistic photography.