Definition: Light; words for light; the vocabulary of light; language of light

Definition: Light; words for light; the vocabulary of light; language of light | Glossary entry

Light; words for light; the vocabulary of light; language of light

Photographers only know photography as much as they know light. The words that describe light are used to access its power, hardness or softness, shades, tones, hues and graduations. Every tiny flash of light has a description that applies to it. Every major light source has a name and a way to describe it. Talking the language of light is a way to be able to talk the language of photography. This vocabulary is not referring to the equipment, the techniques and actions of photography. It is the vocabulary of the description of light as we record it. To talk about light, understand it and describe it we need the proper words.

Below is a list of some of the adjectives of light. The descriptive words that will get you started on you journey to know light and to know how to talk about light.

  1. Ablaze: highly radiant with bright colours and bright light; sometimes associated with fire and strong burning sources.
  2. Aglow: emitting light from within; less than bright; often seen as reflected; not direct; a source elsewhere;
  3. Alight: brightly lit; lighted up; highly illuminated.
  4. Argent: silver; silvery white; often of the moon.
  5. Aureate: Golden, gold-coloured; Brilliant or splendid as gold; brilliantly golden; shining golden; golden glow.
  6. Auroral: pertaining to auroras or aurora activity.
  7. Blinding: so bright as to obscure vision; rendered unable to see by the light; the light intensity interferes with vision.
  8. Coruscating: glittering, sparkling, flashing; twinkling; scintillating.
  9. Crepuscular: Resembling or pertaining to twilight; dim, semi-lit, at the edge of vision; indistinct;
  10. Cast: re-emit, give off; diffuse; especially of a colour cast: to capture the colour from a surface; to re-broadcast diffuse light with a changed colour; redistribute with added colour; to scatter light and colour;
  11. Dappled: mottled, spotted, patchy light; also, marks of this kind on a surface; of shadows patched with light.
  12. Dawn: break of day, bright, cockcrow, crack of dawn, dawning, day peep, daybreak, daylight, early bright, first light, light, morning, sunrise, sunup, blue hours; cool light;
  13. Daylight ordinary, bright, equivalent to a colour temperature of 5000 degrees Kevlin; full sight; brightly lit; showing the quality of the daytime;
  14. Diffused: to break up a beam; re-radiate without direction; split and scatter light; randomly distribute light in all directions; opposite of direct; soft and graduated; not hard light; soft light;
  15. Diffused reflectance: the reflection of light where the light leaves the reflecting surface scattered; frosted reflection; opposite of specular reflection; light that is scattered by reflection; lacking in definition; image free; glowing; rescattered; diffused; soft light; soft reflection;
  16. Dusk: dark, gloaming, gloom, night, nightfall, sundown, sunset, before twilight; twilight; dark; golden hour; golden light; glowing light;
  17. Fluorescent: a substance or surface giving off light produced by another source of light; radiating or emanating light created by a light-source within;
  18. Glancing: light which flashes, sparkles or gleams as it bounces off other surfaces; intermittent, randomly, re-issued from a surface it strikes; reflected, specular light.
  19. Gleaming: shining, radiant, illuminating; emitting.
  20. Glimmering: dimly, faintly, unsteady, wavering, shining or twinkling;
  21. Glinting: shining with a brief, intermittent, flashing, glittering light;
  22. Glistening: That which glistens; sparkles; glitters;
  23. Glistering: brief or short points/flashes of brilliant light;
  24. Glittering: flashing or sparkling; brilliantly radiating intermittently; a point source;
  25. Gloaming: black, close, dark, decline, dim, dusk, duskiness, early black, eve, nightfall, sundown, sunset, twilight; last light;
  26. Glossy: smoothly shiny, brightly shiny from the surface; reflective without detail; diffusing; re-radiating without the property of a mirror; A surface, not a source;
  27. Golden: tinge with a gold hue; light with the depth of gold colour; representing the hue of gold; gold-coloured; gold reflection; golden radiance; precious; of sundown; golden hour; golden glow; lucent;
  28. Hue: light with the appearance of a source without being the actual source; light that bounces from a source giving a colour cast; a type of light or colour; a shade of colour; a tint or degree of lightness; a variation of the true colour; a tone or resonance of one wavelength of a coloured light; a light graduation; a blend of light or light colour;
  29. Illuminating: bright, shining; emitting as a source; re-radiating as a fluorescence; highlighted by a source;
  30. Illuminated: brightened; lit up; glowing or lit up from the light of an external source or spot light.
  31. Incandescent: glowing, gleaming, warm, emitting light; a source of light; brilliant.
  32. Iridescent: rainbow colored, blazing; lustrous; shining; of a bulb; radiant;
  33. Lucent: bright, clear, shining; radiant; intense; dazzling; luminous; brilliant; ablaze; glowing with or giving off light.
  34. Lucifugal: light avoiding; repelled by light; of or pertaining to animals who seek darkness.
  35. Luminescent: shining by chemical or physiological means
  36. Luminous: full of light, light emitting; bright, effulgent, fluorescent, phosphorescent, radiant; a source of light; bright, blazing, incandescent;
  37. Lustrous: smooth, evenly lit; also, brilliant; luminous; glowing; also dazzling;
  38. Mottled: dappled, spotty, patchy, or blotched; characterized by spots, streaks, or patches; especially when of different colours;
  39. Opaque: non-transmitting of light; blocking light; light stop; stopped; stopped down;
  40. Opalescent: iridescent; the quality of opal; diffused, glowing; transmitted through a diffusion medium; many-coloured; pearly; prismatic; rainbow-like; shimmering;
  41. Penetrating: harsh, burning, blazing, strong, etching; hard light, strong light; hard shadows cast; harsh lines; defined light; beams, powerful, direct;
  42. Penumbra/penumbral: partially shaded or conceal; darkened, diminished, dimming, of or pertaining to extinguishment, obliteration of a light, waning, occultation, shading, shrouded, veiled
  43. Phosphorescent: continuing to glow; persistent light after the source is gone;
  44. Prismatic: brilliant, or resembling colors formed by passing light through a prism; opalescent; light splitting; colour splitting; separation of colour and hue; tonal blending of colours;
  45. Radiant: glowing, or radiating light; possessing the ability to push out light as if from a source, or actually constituting a source; emitting from; emanating from;
  46. Resplendent: brilliant, glowing, precious; shining brilliantly;
  47. Roseate: said of pink or dawn light; tinged with rose; rosy; pink.
  48. Scattered/scattering: re-radiated; distributed/reflected in various random directions; diffused, diffuse, dispersed; tending toward softer light; graduated; deviating from a beam to various non-uniform trajectories;
  49. Scintillating: sparking, wavering, twinkling or sparkling; also, brilliant, glazing, regularly varying;
  50. Shimmering: soft or wavering light or reflection; regularly varying in short periods; glowing in a wavering fashion;
  51. Spangling: tiny, sharp, reflective or emitted points of light; similar to glittery/glittering.
  52. Spectral: as if from a spectrum; a range of colors of the spectrum; ghostly, ghoulish, glowing; glimmering; a full spectral range of colours.
  53. Specular: mirror-like reflection of light; reflecting detail; angle of incidence equals the angle of reflectance; reflected in a tightly controlled direction or trajectory; opposite of diffused reflection; surface reflectance of light exhibiting the image of the light striking the surface;
  54. Sunlight: having the properties of, or actually being within the direct light of the sun; having a the cast of the suns colour; sunny; warm; summery; hot; intense; direct, hard, sharp; penetrating, unforgiving;
  55. Translucent: diffused, or transparent; allows light, but not sight to pass through; objects that allow partial transmission of light emitted as diffused or scattered light; exiting light appears to glow and may have a colour cast depending on the material and its base colour;
  56. Tungsten: a metal used for wire in incandescent electric bulbs; household tungsten lights tend to emit a strong red/yellow cast; reddish/yellow light; home lights; homely;
  57. Twilight: between day and night; dark; almost dark; blue; afterglow, afterlight, crepuscular light, decline, dimness, dusk, early evening, end, evening, gloaming, half-light, night, nightfall, sundown, sunset; after the golden hour;

This list is not exhaustive. There are lots more interesting words to describe light and the photographic elements of light. Your contributions for more words are welcome…

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