Inspired by the United Nations’ International Year of Light, Lightswitch is exploring Why Light Matters throughout 2015.

We have asked our designers why light matters to them and will be sharing their responses in a short Q&A each month. Each Q&A will focus on a different way light shapes our lives—from buildings we live in to the emotions it evokes. We hope our stories will inspire you to think about why light matters to you, and we invite you to join the dialogue on Facebook: How does light affect photography, and how does photography affect light? Share your photos with us!

Photography and lighting are intrinsically linked. As the art and science of recording light, photography is, by its very nature, dependent on lighting. As lighting designers, we think the inverse is true, too. Photography is how we document, share and preserve our lighting designs. It also happens to be a passion of ours. Lightswitch Chicago designers and talented photographers, Austin Shapley and Tammy Smith, discuss the connection between light and photography.

Q: How did you become interested in photography?
Tammy: I started pretty young. I was about 10 years old. My father would do some photography for fun and for work. (He was a real estate agent and would take pictures of houses.) He had some nice cameras, and I told him that I wanted a real camera, too, so he made a deal with me. He had an old black-and-white Rangefinder from the early '60s. He told me that if I could learn how to use that camera that he’d buy me a real camera. I spent more than a year learning how to use it. It was a great experience. I learned how to manually focus a camera and how to set up a shot. After that, he got me a Minolta X-700 with a 50mm lens. I used that camera for about 15 years.

Austin: My uncle was teacher and photographer and his work was displayed in our home. It got me interested in taking photographs. As a child, I was always taking pictures. I especially loved Polaroids. I had a fascination with capturing moments. Once I got to go into the dark room in high school, that's when I started to explore where the science and art of photography intertwined. That was huge for me. That, combined with my high school drama troupe, led me to lighting. It was in studying lighting that I learned that you could control light. With photography, you are trying to get the universe to give you what you want. With lighting design, you can control the output. You can create the result you want.

Q: How does photography factor into your work as a lighting designer now?
Austin: As lighting designers in the modern age, we have to be familiar with how lighting looks on camera versus how it appears in person. You know you're going to have a million cameras pointed at every show you do, whether they're professional IMAG cameras or the cameras in people's pockets. So, you have to have an understanding of basic photography—how to balance light or how you can under- or over-saturate certain portions to achieve documentable drama, impact, and the stories we seek to tell as lighting designers

Tammy: My photography background helped me when I was learning how to light stage productions and corporate events because I instinctively knew what they needed to look like. It’s all about composition and the emotion that it will evoke for the client and the audience. When I photography my work, I try to evoke that same emotion. I still approach it as art, the same way that I approach lighting. If we’re not making art, we’re not having fun.

Q: Do you photograph your projects for Lightswitch?
Austin: I have two cameras: a GoPro and a Canon SLR. I use both to a document our work. Every show we do has its own story; the things I try to capture are based on how we're trying to tell that story. The ultimate goal of portfolio photography is to distill or condense the story of a project into 10-12 photos.

Q: How do you decide what photos best tell your story?
Austin: You can never get the entire story across, so you have to make choices. I look for the best moments that say as much as possible. What were the songs we liked the best? That the band liked best? On the Imagine Dragons tour, for example, I tried to capture the epic sense of the show with the screaming fans and the feeling of being in the crowd, as well as the massive energy of the band. Some of my favorite photos are from the hit “Radioactive,” where we set off cryo jets with strobes and huge lighting and video looks, and the band and crowd just go insane. Looking at those shots, you can almost feel the floor shaking and hear the roar inside the arena.

Q: Outside of work, how does light factor into your personal photography?
Tammy: Lighting is extremely important for me since I shoot mostly with a full-spectrum camera, which shows everything from UV through infrared. You can get different looks by adding colored filters to balance the light. For example, in my photo of Singing Hills Barn, I used a blue filter to balance the clouds and give the grass a nice golden hue. The effect looks like it’s painted, but it’s just the filters.

I took another photo, of friends’ house, which shows how lighting can impact photography. In that photo, the light from the moon shines through trees onto the house, which makes nice pattern on the roof. Then there are the stars in the sky and the light from inside the house that is nice and warm. I used a filter especially for astrophotography that helped block some of the green from the sky and made the stars pop.

Q: What do you want people to see when they look at your photography?
Tammy: It’s always an interesting thing to see what other people think of my photos, but I try not to tell them what I felt when I took them. Every single one of my photos has emotional value for me. The one of my friends’ house shows the warmth of my friends. They are very generous and giving people, and their home is a special place where I feel like I belong. For me, it’s that.