When I started taking photos, I didn’t think about light except in terms of how much to let hit the film. Admittedly, I was still thinking that way when I went digital: How much light should the image sensor receive?
That doesn’t work. You need to think about the color of the light, the direction of the light, and the filters changing the light.
But wait, you say, I don’t use filters in my photography.
Oh, but you do, Grasshopper. Ever shot outside on a cloudy day? Those clouds? Filters. Big ones. But that’s not the thrust of this post. No, in this post – which I’ll keep short – is that I want you to start thinking about light.
That’s it. It sounds hard, but I assure you there’s no secret. Move yourself around before you take a photo; look at your subject – really look at it – and see how your angle (relative to the light) changes the photo. Take pictures from every angle. This is digital, after all. Not like you’re going to go broke on film.
A great way to play with light is to find a funny object – a troll doll, a stuffed armadillo, whatever, but whatever you get, make sure it isn’t white and it isn’t black – and place in a variety of scenes. Get a blue stuffed mouse and take it to a beach. Take a picture of it at the entrance. Now take it to the beach and get photo of it on the sand. Next, head to some tree-lined trails so you can see how light filtered through the trees changes the mouse. Bring it into an IHOP; set it next to the set of syrups they have on the table. Bring it everywhere, and photograph it everywhere. After a while, you won’t see the mouse (or the troll, or the armadillo, or the pocket watch, or whatever) the same way: You’ll see the light.
And that, I promise, is half the battle.