Editor's note: the following is a tongue-in-cheek, often irreverent, question and answer column published in the ASMP News solely for the entertainment of our readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of ASMP, the local chapter or other ASMP members. All opinions and answers are solely those of the author, and he is welcome to them.

Readers' questions about any aspect of photography, or life in general, are welcome and Dr. Photography will answer them in future columns, if he happens to feel like it. Send mail to:
Dear Dr. Photography

Dear Dr. Photography,

I am an art director for a Fortune 500 company in the Bay Area and I'm constantly hearing our photographers say they need to control the light on a shoot. Why is this always so important?

Sanguine in San Jose


DP: Photographers, as you no doubt have discovered, are a somewhat different breed than most of the rest of society. I mean, what other group (aside from nuclear physicists) spend countless thousands of dollars on specialized equipment to document and manipulate something that they can't feel, smell, hear or touch. Although we see it every day, light is not an easy thing to comprehend and most of us just take it for granted until the power goes off and we can't see which brand of beer we're grabbing out of the cold case at the supermarket. But photographers, being the artistic types, feel the need to exercise some sort of control over something in order to justify the fees that they charge. So generally, they try to control light, primarily because nobody else is really interested in doing so as it's not really an accomplishment you'd list at the top of your resume. Unfortunately, choosing to control light is somewhat like trying to give a cat a bath -- it takes an awful lot of effort and usually leaves you wondering whether it was worth it when you're through.

However, you do have to admit that most professional photographers wind up taking better pictures in spite of this strange desire to control light. So, as an art director who likes receiving good photographs, you should probably just continue to tolerate this peculiarity and nod approvingly when your photographers say "I just want to fix one more thing with the light." Just be glad you don't have to live with one.

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©1991 Scott Highton
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