Technical Lighting Terms & Technique

Illustration of Chiaroscuro

During my internship with photographer Chris Usher, the term Chiaroscuro was repeatedly mentioned as a technical term used to (generally) enhance the visual aesthetics of photography, particularly through an approach of using lighter and darker areas of an image in an attempt to provide dimensionality to the photo. The best definition of Chiaroscuro defines the term as the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface – Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Chiaroscuro is of Latin origin with Chiaro meaning ‘light’ or ‘clear’ & ‘oscuro’ meaning ‘obscure’ or ‘dark.’

Chiaroscuro is a method for applying value to a two-dimensional piece of artwork to create the illusion of a three-dimensional solid form. This way of working was devised during the Italian Renaissance and was used by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. In this system, if light is coming in from one predetermined direction, then light and shadow will conform to a set of rules. – Art Studio Chalkboard

Example of Chiaroscuro in photography:

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