Lighting in Photography

The Best Photographs from 2017

“The architecture section of 2017 Sony World Photography Awards illustrated not only that light affects our experience of the built environment but that the reverse is also true.”  What a powerful statement… ‘Light affects our experience of the built environment and the reverse is also true.’

As you thumb through the 2017 Sony World Photography Award winners, you can’t help but see beauty, depth, and composition.  Without a doubt, they evoke some kind of emotion or feeling within. The lighting is a huge part in why those feelings surface.  Yes, these are all photographs of architecture. Each one so incredibly unique in its own way and so much more than building materials.

The following are examples of how lighting (natural and artificial) influences one’s interpretation of a portrayed image.

  1. When attention is normally drawn to glass, you now see reflections.
  2. Where there is repetition, you notice depth.
  3. Instead of blues and yellows, you see harmony.
  4. Instead of seeing concrete and metal, you see shadows and moods.

The Connection Between Architectural Lighting & Photography

Ansel Adams, the famous and prolific imagemaker once said “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”  He went on to say that you start to craft stories about the space or landscape you’re seeing. A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.

When we design the lighting for a project, we strive to enhance the architecture in the way that it is portrayed in these photographs. If you walk into a room, space, or building that we designed we want you to FEEL something. If you see BEYOND the walls and floors, then we’ve done our job.

We wanted to take the time to break down how light affects built environments, from one of our in house lighting experts, Kristen Kordecki.

Dimensionality – Light changes the dimensions of a room.  Paint and light work hand in hand to affect the viewers perception of a room. You’ll notice in the Sony images that how the photographers use the tonal nature of the walls and lights affects your idea of how big or small the space is.

Layering – Multiple layers of light are crucial to make a room seem mutli-faceted, dynamic, and lively, even when dimly lit. Lighting floors, walls, ceilings, and everything in between is what keeps your eye moving throughout the space. On the contrary, single layer lighting design is dramatic and theatrical. Both approaches are equally as effective and used in architecture AND photography.

Natural Light – Knowing how to combat or enhance natural light, which is NOT a science,  is just as important as artificial lighting design. The sun, whether up or down, is going to have an impact on any space with exterior windows. After understanding and studying the amount of daylight that will spill in throughout the day, you can focus on creating shadows or adding more highlight. Keep in mind what time of the day the space will be occupied. This affects the color and direction of natural light.

We will leave you with some of our favorite Ansel words –  ”A good photograph is knowing where to stand.“  What we take from that mantra is that Photography is art of telling a great story by knowing how to place the viewer in the scene and make them feel what the space is about.  The live version of that is exactly what we strive to achieve on each and every project!

We’ve worked closely with architecture photographers like Gregg Watts, Mark Woolcott, and Frank Oudeman to ensure that our ‘live version’ and their ‘still version,’ are as closely aligned as possible.

If you have any questions about this article or lighting in general, drop us a line at