Friday, 6 September 2013

04.01 Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro is an Italian expression which can be translated literally as "light-dark" and arose out of its use in painting - where subjects in dark scenes were dramatically illuminated using shafts of light. Chiaroscuro, as an approach, is an effective means of providing the contrast essential to good composition where it:
  1. establishes tonal relationships;
  2. conveys dimensionality;
  3. determines compositional structure; and
  4. highlights areas of visual importance
Johannes Itten described chiaroscuro as "one of the most expressive and important means of composition" [in "The Photographer's Eye" by Michael Freeman (2007), page 110]. Compositional devices involving the application of chiaroscuro include:
  • crating ambiguity
  • emphasising outline
  • formation of primary patterns through caustics (i.e. reflected or refracted patterns of light)
  • reinforcement of secondary patterns e.g. sunlight dappling an already-dappled forest floor

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