Have you ever taken photos of just shadows?
Have you ever taken a photo of your own shadow?
Are you really seeing the shadows and light play around you?
How can you use shadows to your best advantage in your photography?
I just finished watching one of Emil Pakarklis’ videos in his iPhone Photography School Course about shadows and I learned some principles that I want to share with you this week. (All the photos below are from his video unless otherwise noted)
You need light to have shadows! A simplistic statement but a true one! So you have to pay attention to the light when you want to photograph shadows. Camera sensors are very sensitive to light and can capture light and thus shadows very well. They can add mystery to your photos and make your subjects really stand out.
In the middle of a sunny day you will find very harsh light, thus hard shadows. As you get closer to the golden hour, the shadows lengthen and can give a totally different effect.
Keep in mind that there are several things that can effect and change your shadows:
- Type of light
- Time of day
- Time of the year
Exposing for shadows
Expose for the highlights, not the shadows and even adjust a little darker. This will really make the shadows darker. You can refer back to this previous post of mine and use the techniques described there to expose properly. Basically you will touch and hold where you want to auto focus/expose your photo (in this case, the lighter areas). A small yellow box with an adjustable slide on the right will show up. When you move that slider down it will darken everything a bit more and this is what you want to do. Check out the awesome shadow photos below!
Shadows to enhance composition
Shadows can be used in 3 different ways to enhance the composition of your photos:
- As leading lines during the golden hours when shadows are longer and can lead the eye right up to the subject. (See photo #1 below)
- Highlight subject in lighted area surrounded by shadowed are which provides a natural vignette. (See photo #2 below)
- Conversely, you can hide part of your subject in the shadows, highlighting just part of the subject. (See photo #3 below)
Look for Shadow patterns, often geometric shapes.
When you really start looking and seeing, you will find lovely shadows all around you with wonderful shapes/patterns. Frame your photo to capture these patterns in a pleasing abstract way! Look on sidewalks, roads, the side of buildings, etc. You can take a photo of just the patterns (see photo #1 below) or a bit of the subject creating the shadows and the shadows themselves (see photo #2 below) to perhaps create a more mysterious photo where you don’t know where the object ends and shadows begin!
Shadow as the subject itself
It’s always fun to take photos of just the shadows themselves and this is best done during the Golden Hour when shadows are longer. These images are inherently mysterious and have good visual appeal. (See the first 2 photos below) Mystery is a great tool for storytelling as I explained in a previous blog post. (See photos 3 and 4 below)
Don’t forget to play around with your own shadow! (See photos 5 and 6 below). The last one was taken by yours truly!
Editing shadow photos
I won’t say a lot about editing here except to say you should use the contrast slider to advantage, darkening the photo. Many mobile editing apps, such as Snapseed, have a shadows editing option which will darken the shadows but not other parts of the shot.
To play around even more you can invert the photo so the shadows are “right-side up”! (See photo below).
Well, that’s it for today! I would encourage you to get out there and look for those shadows.
Once you start capturing these wonderful shadows, you will start to see them more and more, developing that photographer’s eye.
Join us on my FaceBook group as we do a challenge on Shadow Photography starting Sunday, Sept 10.
You can still participate in the 10-day photo challenge in that same group which is an ongoing project. But we will now be having a weekly or bi-weekly challenge as well.
Here are 2 more lovely shadow photos to inspire you!