Using Light As Highlights In An Image


Using light as highlights in an image is an approach I like to use from time to time when working on my photo art projects. Here are just a few examples.

Using Light As Highlights

My aim when working with my photographs is to bring out something more in them. Not just a depiction of a scene but perhaps how it feels to stand there and look at it. That might be an emotional or physical response. Such as feeling of surprise or the warmth of sunshine. Or I may choose to develop the story within an image, sometimes by the use of light.

In Memoriam

Our cat Bluebottle died many years ago. We had a photograph of her, taken by Barnet Boy, that I chose to use to create a portrait in memoriam.

using light as highlights
Bluebottle Waiting for Lizards

While pleasant enough, the photograph was actually overly dark. Having said that, I liked the way it cast shadows in the image and I wanted to keep that impact. So in my reworking, I actually darkened the edges of the image by using a vignette. Then using light as highlights emphasised the part of the image I wanted to have the most impact. Namely Bluebottle, the edge of the rock she is standing on and the beautiful terracotta pots.

Get My Best Profile Please

Another cat image which involved using light as highlights is my favourite portrait of Ms Stevie Mouse. Here, the original photograph captured a moment as Stevie looked up at something flying above as we sat on the outside terrace. Stevie has a slight problem with her eyes from when she was a kitten. It is actually the reason she is kept inside, she can’t see completely so is safer indoors. So it was a delight to get a photograph with her eyes fully open and such an alert expression.

using light as highlights
Get My Best Profile Please

Now I could have left the photograph like that but I had a particular place in mind for the final portrait. Near a window. I decided that in using light as highlights on this occasion, I wanted to give the impression she was in full sunshine. The added bonus of this effect is that even in dark conditions it gives the impression of sunshine pouring in from the right of the image. As if coming through the window. Even at night that soft glow is clearly visible.

Moody Purple Iris

Obviously I work with more than just cat subjects! One day I was out walking the dogs when one of them chased a lizard around the back of a farm building near where we live. Grabbing the dog I looked up and gasped as I saw a beautiful purple iris, in the middle of nowhere, highlighted by sunshine. It was so pretty! And so unexpected as this was on a piece of untended land.

using light as highlights
Moody Purple Iris

By the time I got the dogs back indoors of course the light had changed. But I took a photograph and I knew exactly in my head how it should look to create that moment of magic. The photo needed a lot of work to create the image I had in mind. I have mentioned before in my blog how I can get quite obsessive about creating what I can see in my head. This one turned out exactly how I planned it.


My final example of using light as highlights relates to a message I wanted to convey in an image. The original photograph is of a statue of Avalokiteshvara, or Quan Yin, a symbol of compassion.


I wanted to create the impression, and feeling, of rays of compassion and peace emanating from this enlightened being. I think I succeeded, don’t you?

Visit my Pictorem and RedBubble stores to see my collection of artworks, available as prints in various formats and on other home decor and gift items.

Before you go

Mid-week Reflections
Dorothy and Barnet Boy

My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at

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Thank you for reading!

About Dorothy Berry-Lound 365 Articles
I am having fun living half way up a mountain in Central Italy with my husband Barnet Boy, Stevie Mouse and the rest of my fur family. I am enjoying creating art that people will love having on their walls. I also love storytelling through my blog and short stories.

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