The 5 Elements of Photography – tl;dr version

Ok. Let’s make this quick.

There are 5 things that go into any and every photograph.

In order of importance, these 5 Elements of Photography are:

  1. The Light
  2. The Photographer
  3. The Subject
  4. The Lens
  5. The Camera

All of these terms are broader than you probably think:

  • ‘Light,’ here, includes the entire spectrum of light, from radio waves through gamma radiation, and is in no way limited to the visible forms with which we’re mostly familiar.
  • ‘The Photographer’ is a human decision-maker, but may or may not actually operate the camera directly.
  • ‘The Subject’ is just whatever is captured and transferred to film/paper or 1s & 0s, but may be extended, depending on the emotional, aesthetic, intellectual, and other qualities of the image.
  • ‘The Lens’ can be anything from a hole in a piece of tin to a $11,000 Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH thing, or even the light collecting parts of a massive, multi-billion dollar radiation-collecting satellite; its job is to gather light and transport it to the camera.
  • ‘The Camera’ can be pretty much anything, from a coffee can, to the fanciest Leica or Phase One or the recording parts of the aforementioned satellite: all of these ‘capture’ the light and fix it in an image.

More thoughts are available in the articles linked above, and I make no claims to be an authority on any of this. I am merely (and only recently) a geek whose current focus is on photography, and I am constantly learning new things and coming up with new ideas.

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