Photography, Light and Colour

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The understanding of light and the effective use of colour in creative work and digital p photography. People effectively using colour in creative work and digital photography has been around for a long time now, and the study of light and colour even longer. In this essay I plan to effectively communicate how the human brain perceives light and how the understanding of this has culminated in creative work and photography. Although photography as an art form is relatively new compared to classical art there are a lot of interesting and relative comparisons between the two when it comes to colour science. After all photography is essentially painting with light. Scientists and artists who have studied light and colour have changed and contributed to the world that we live in today. For instance the words you are reading off this page right now are just a mix of Red, Green and Blue light in the pixels on your computer screen. Without breakthroughs in colour science and understanding in human colour vision this would not be possible. The understanding of light and colour science has made it possible for artists and creative workers to effectively use colour in their works and kaleidoscopic beauty into the world. After all, without light there is no colour and without colour the world would be a terrible dull place. And where is the fun in that? Figure 1. Light Diffraction

If we do not understand the science of how the human body perceives colour then we cannot fully utilise the colour spectrum. Be it for art, design or photography. Therefore it is important to know how the colour vision system works. Essentially without light there would be no colours in the world. The process of giving colour to this world happens within our brains and vision system. The white looking light that you see from the sun everyday (or once a week in England) is actually made up of many different colours. First demonstrated in 1665 by Francesco Maria Grimaldi and then more famously by Isaac Newton a few years later. The ‘diffraction’ of white light through a prism as it was termed showed light being split through a prism into different colours. Figure 2. Wavelengths

Hence the discovery of the ‘spectrum’. The visual colour spectrum is made up of the six ordered colours of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. These colours with the addition of Indigo are referred to as ‘visible light’ and are the full range of wavelengths (but more on that later) that the human eye can perceive. With a mixture of these colours is every colour that you are seeing right now, and infact have ever seen. The human eye cannot see anything outside of this range. In saying that human colour vision is guessed to be able to perceive around 3 million colours and the actual number could be three times that. So as Designers, Artists and photographers there are alot of ways that we can effectively express what we are trying to say using colour.

“Our brains and eyes act together to make extraordinary things happen in perception. Movies are sequences of still pictures. Magazine pictures are arrays of dots.” -1 Photography is an art of colour composition. Getting the correct exposure and making a photograph represent exactly how a scene looked at that point of time is impossible without the correct colour balance technology and an understanding of the human visual system.

Figure 3. R,G,B Cones
Digital Photography is culmination between art and science and has a very interesting way of dealing with light. Cameras have been designed to mimic our visual system as well as is possible. The basic Digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera has two main features that attempt to make the final arrangement of pixels red, green and blue look as much...
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