Learn about Quality of Light (a kid-friendly experiment!)

posted in: Learning | 1

This week we’re talking about quality of light! And I have an easy, kid-friendly, experiment that your kids will have a blast doing. Now first, we’ll have to delve into what the photography definition is for “quality of light.”  And this term is really the essence of photography.  Because photography depends on it.  How you choose to add light ot a scene (or leave it be) will drastically alter the appearance and feel of your final photograph.

Learn about Quality of Light (a kid-friendly experiment!) - part of Betsy's ABC's of Photography series at BPhotoArt.com

Here’s a quote I found on the web, from Gary Black Photography:


The quality of light refers to the light source, the direction of the light and its colour [sic]. The light can be hard, as it is in direct sunlight on a cloudless day, or soft and diffused as in an overcast day.

I’m not sure how to provide a simpler explanation of that.  The quality of light is a combination of factors that affect how the finished photograph looks.  You can take pictures of the same thing on a different day, or even the same day, and the quality of light could be very different.

Think of your kitchen table.  Maybe the sunlight streams through the windows in the morning, making it very bright and cheerful.  But if you come back at midday, your kitchen will look different, because the sun is overhead and the light entering your kitchen is softer and less direct.  You might remember we touched on this when we learned about existing light by going on a scavenger hunt around the house, or when we learned about flash with three different activities.

As an aside: If you’ve joined us partway through this Photography ABC’s series, please make sure to check out a few of the past posts where we talked about some of these different qualities of light.  And if you’ve been with us from the beginning, thank you!!

Anyways, the quality of light is something that’s easier to identify when you see it than by me describing it to you.  So, here are some ways to learn about quality of light!

Learn About Quality of Light With Flashlights

Have your kids set up a few toys at your kitchen table (or wherever), and make sure to have the following items at hand:

  • flashlight (or light source)
  • white paper or cardstock

Dim the lights, and then have your kids shine the light directly at the toys.  If your kids are older, have them write down some observations on a piece of paper, otherwise you can just discuss with them…

  1.  Is it easy to see the whole toy?
  2. Can you see a sharp line between light and shadow, or does it gradually change?
  3. Does the light feel hard or soft?
  4. Are there any details in the shadows, or is it so black you can’t really tell?

Next, hold up the paper as a filter between the flashlight and the toys.  Experiment with moving it closer to the toys, or further away from the toys. See how the quality of light changes.  Again, discuss (or write down) what you can see.

  1. Does it become easier to see the entire toy, even the parts in shadow?
  2. Does the light seem to become “softer”?
  3. Which light do you like better and why?

There really are no right and wrong talking points here.  It’s just a matter of observing, and being able to visualize the concept we’re talking about.  Quality of light is something that’s easiest to understand when you see it!

The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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