The Music Of Photography!

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Some photographs are so strong and soulful…Their depths and meanings can sadden you, make you happy, move you, make you nostalgic, question you, give you answers, soothe you, entertain you…A good photograph can set a “mood”, as if it has some “music” of its own.

I always find a good photo to be like a beautiful song one can contemplate over, a well-tuned piece of music that one can go back to again and again without getting bored of, and still, discover something new in it each time !

Thinking on this note (pun unintended!), I have been struck by some amazing conceptual similarities between Music and Photography, particularly in the way sound (to create music) and light (to create photograph) are handled during both the creative processes.

Be it for a musician or a photographer, timing is everything! If missing a second means missing a crucial note and thereby spoiling the whole tune for the musician, missing a second means missing the decisive moment of the event(of wildlife/sports/life and so on…) and thereby spoiling the whole frame – for the photographer!

If music is – sound organized in time, photography is – light organized in time! Both sound and light need intricate handling in order to preserve the details and avoid “Noise” in the final composition!

When you play a guitar, you may have the chords available, but it is all about choosing the right ones and arranging them in particular order keeping in mind certain gaps of time available in between.

When you take a photo, your subject, background and foreground may be at your disposal, but the crucial part is to pick each of them and arrange them in the viewfinder, again, keeping in mind the fashion in which light is available and is ever changing, moment by moment.

Both the jobs may seem pretty straightforward to the onlooker, however, they both require years and years of practice and experiments to actually master the techniques.


These two arts share similarities up to the detail of how they are denoted graphically. On musical scales “Low notes” are on the left side and “High notes” are on the right side of the scale, just the way shadows are shown in the left side of the histogram and highlights are on the right side of it ! How intriguing!

Both photography and music are about “ensemble”. What f-stop to use, to fire flash or not, what ISO settings to apply, I cannot suggest any fixed formulas for these things because they are relative. I can judge these parameters precisely only when I know what the ambiance for the shoot is, the subject, the light source, the purpose of the photograph and so on…same way, a musician will churn out those notes or play major/minor chords according to what s(he) is trying to accomplish- whether (s)he is performing solo, blending her/his part with other instruments, is the mood sad/happy and so on…

Why do you like one piece of music and hate another composition? Why some photographs move you from within, while some does not appeal at all? More often than not, there is no unique answer for these questions. In Music as well as in photography, it is not possible to define everything logically or by applying calculations.

Photography is a crossover between mathematics & philosophy and so is music. Being good at calculations/math does not make someone a good music-composer or a photographer. Both  art-forms demand much more than just being “technically right”, being able to understand and express the emotions is required as much, if not more.

At the closure, I would like to suggest something very crucial for preserving the charms of these arts…Whether tuning music or setting exposure, leave the AUTO MODE, it does not produce the BEST YOU CAN OFFER!

P.S: Having studied engineering, I cannot help but to look at this matter at the very basic level of physics as well.

Well, both the sound waves and light waves share the same fundamental behaviors of interference, diffraction and refraction too!:P

Images & Article © 2012 Gyaneshwari Dave

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