3 Qualities Of Light You Can Use To Make Your Images Glow

Color has three elements – luminosity, hue, and saturation. 

Luminosity describes a color’s lightness.

Hue describes a color’s temperature. (It’s the rainbow ROYGBIV.)

Saturation describes a color’s degree of neutrality.

All colors can be described as a combination of these three values.

Each of these elements offers a unique quality and type of contrast. (Think energy.)

While we see all three elements simultaneously, learning to distinguish these three elements from one another is a useful skill that will help you see more clearly and see more possibilities for enhancing your images.

Consider the transformations each element of color offers.

When highlights are lightened with luminosity, this image feels cooler and more brilliant.

When highlights are warmed with hue, the image feels hotter and more humid.

When highlights are intensified with saturation, the image feels more lush and fertile.

Each of these elements of color implies a different atmosphere, a different time of day, or perhaps even season, and, in this case, a state of plant growth. Color becomes a code for many different qualities, and so can offer you many possibilities for creative enhancement and personal expression.

The following examples will illuminate some of the possibilities and pitfalls for you.


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Explore The Emotional Possibilities Of 3 Different Tonal Keys In Images

Want more mood in your photographs? One way to do this is to limit images to a single tonal range and focus more on the emotional associations it offers.

Luminosity is often divided into three broad ranges; shadows, midtones, and highlights. If the tonalities in images are predominantly from one of these ranges, they are often described as low-key or high-key. (Curiously, the words medium or mid-key are less frequently used, but it is useful to make this distinction.) By constraining an image to one of these three, you can set a specific mood.

High keys are light and airy.

Medium keys are moderate and balanced.

Low-key images are dark and heavy.

Pursue this a little further by listing as many specific emotions that you feel are related to each of these, and you’ll get a sense of how many shades of expression you’ll be able to explore when you identify them. Read More

Indentifying the 3 Elements of Color

Color has 3 elements – luminosity, hue, and saturation. All colors can be described as some combination of these three values. While we see all three elements simultaneously in a single color, learning to distinguish these three elements from one another is an important perceptual skill.

Luminosity, the light and dark of color, can be describe on a scale of 0-100. 0 is pure black. 100 is pure white. (It’s the zone system’s 0-10 times 10.)

Hue, the color temperature of color, can be described on a scale of 0-360. (There are 360 degrees in a circle. Every 30 degrees transitions into a new family of color – i.e. 0 is red, 30 is orange, 60 is yellow, etc.)

Saturation, the degree of neutrality of color, can be described on a scale of 0-100. 0 is absolutely neutral. 100 is maximum saturation.

LHS (luminosity, hue, saturation) is an excellent language for describing color perceptually (though not necessarily the best for editing and printing). Instead of memorizing RGB values for all the colors in all the standard color spaces, or CMYK values for all devices, or a Pantone swatchbook, you can simply observe color and translate that into 3 values.

LHS is an easy language to learn. Luminosity and Saturation are described on a 0-100 scale, essentially a 1-10 scale with more granularity. Easy. Learning numerical values for Hue is more challenging, but if you memorize a few values you can easily figure out the others. Think of the color wheel as a clock. 0 degrees, red, starts at 3 o’clock. Count back 1 hour, 2 o’clock, to the next color, orange, or 30 degrees. Keep counting back in 1 hour increments to the next color, (i.e. 1 o’clock or 60 degrees is yellow). (An easy mnemonic for remembering the progression of hues is ROYGBIV – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. You’ll need twelve words to make it all the way around the clock – red, orange, yellow, warm green, green, cool green, cyan, blue, warm blue, purple, violet, magenta.)

Consider LHS a ‘zone system’ for color. It’s a simple sophisticated language that can be used to describe color with greater clarity. You’ll find learning it will lead to better communication. Once you learn it, you’ll be able to communicate more precisely with others who know it – you can even teach it to others quickly.

You’ll also find that once you learn the language of LHS, you’ll see color more clearly, remember it better, understand more about how colors work together, and find ways to adjust colors to reproduce them more accurately or enhance their capacity for expression.
Learning LHS is time well spent.

Identify colors with LHS numbers.
Here are three examples.
Now, call out numbers for more of the colors you see.
Make this a habit and you’ll develop razor sharp color perception.

Read more Color Theory.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.