Light informs Space: Light in Photography

The quality of lighting in architecture defines the characteristics within a space. When talking about light, it is common to attribute some sort of ambiance to space, whether it is warm and cozy, bright and productive, or colourful and fun. Each lighting scenario changes the way we perceive space – it does not physically change the space itself. Therefore, the power of light can create moods that complement the function of the space.

Night View Tokyo City View and Sky Deck – Roppongi, Tokyo


Photography is not all that different. In fact, it is all about controlling the ingress of light through the lens that will inform the qualities of the image. Above is a photo taken from Tokyo City Sky Deck in Roppongi Hill in Tokyo, what is mesmerising about this photo is the glistening cityscape; the image talks about the on going nature of an urban environment that continues on as the sun disappears. Conversely, the photo below, captured in daylight, of roughly the same view has a different mood, even though it the physicality of the objects have not changed.


Day View Tokyo City View and Sky Deck – Roppongi, Tokyo


Ikea’s photographic techniques display the ambience of space very well. Communicating the emotive qualities of spaces through lighting techniques. Even though most catalogue images are computer rendered, the same techniques are employed to generate photorealistic images.

The more variation you have in your lighting, the easier it is to create the right atmosphere for whatever you’re doing. So that you can stay alert when you want to concentrate – and relaxed when you need to wind down. And this can make your home an even more comfortable place to be.”  (Ikea, 2017) Accompanied with the two photos below, Ikea has a dedicated webpage explaining the effects that light has in the spaces we inhabit. You can check out the webpage here and watch this cool artistic exposé on living with light here.

The interesting parallel to light in architecture and light in photography is that it is basically the same thing. The intention of the Ikea living room photo is to illuminate key areas of the room, developing subconsciously a hierarchy of the elements in the space. Respectively, light in photography intentionally reveals and highlights aspects of the subject. Photographically, the Ikea photo presents how light is revealing the more important aspects of the space: the couches, and the display boxes, but not the cluttering boxes of books.

Setting the mood with the right lighting is the secret to a bathroom sanctuary – and for makeup application. Any mirror should be lit evenly from either side to limit shadows. Candles make your spa time spent even more calming and soothing. (Ikea, 2017)

Upward view into scoop at sunrise. Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France. Image © Henry Plummer 2011


Le Corbusier’s Chapel of Notre Dame du Haunt displays a unique architectural quality that takes advantages of solar light. One example of this building is the eastern red chamber that illuminates by the morning sun, a quality Le Corbusier attributes to symbolise human birth. (Schielke 2015)

Not to state the obvious, but our eyes are made to see light, to see forms in light and what is revealed by light and shade, and thus by this architects and photographers are able to take advantage this notion of revealing and hiding by light to develop beautiful shapes and forms. Light can reveal and hide. As architects/designers we often always base our design to capture the full potential of the sun to benefit from its advantages, and with our own technological advancements, we have able to replicate light to illuminate dark spaces. Light informs space of its qualities: mood, textures, depth…In the same way, photographer’s are met with similar challenges.





Palacio, Victor. “Light in Architecture.” International Year of Light Blog. January 26, 2015. Accessed August 30, 2017.

Schielke, Thomas. “Light Matters: Le Corbusier and the Trinity of Light.” Light Matters: Le Corbusier and the Trinity of Light. February 10, 2015. Accessed August 30, 2017.

Ikea. “Living with Light : Another way to look at light.” Living with Light & more – IKEA. Accessed August 30, 2017.

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