Where there is light, there are shadows. Even in the dimmest light, you’ll find shadows – subtle, yes, but they are there. Shadows can be soft, or they can be bold. They can add mystery, playfulness, drama, depth, and they can add to the story. They can bring out the texture in your subject. They can direct attention to the viewer, when used well compositionally. We focus so much on light, but rarely talk about these shadows. We need to talk about them, for they are just as important as the light. Light is nothing without shadows. Just as we strive to become masters of light, we must strive to become masters of shadow, too.
So often, shadows are referred to as a “lack of light”, which would make them sound less important. They aren’t less important, though. Shadows are the opposite of light and as far as I’m concerned, they are just as important as light. Shadows are like the picture frame for your photograph – they frame light, they bring attention to light, they shape light, they make the light stand out more than it would if the shadows weren’t present. Without a frame, a picture is fine, but with a frame, it’s so much more. It’s polished, finished, it makes a bigger statement.
Just as we’ve taken the time to observe and watch for various types of light, we will observe and watch for shadows and how they play with the light. Think about shadows, just as much as the light, as you shape your images into what you want them to be.
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The light was just barely trickling through the trees outside his window, leaving lots of shadowy areas in this image. Keeping this image dark focuses on both the light and the shadows, allowing them to compliment each other and add a bit of quiet drama to the photo.
The light here was bright but it was met with dark shadows – and it is those shadows that make the light stand out as bright as it does. The light and shadows work together to create the contrast seen in this image – they bring it to life.
Even in low, indirect light, you can find shadows. This was after the sun had gone down, but it was bright enough for subjects to cast a shadow. Here, the light and shadow work together to define facial features and the chubbiness in his arms and hands.
From this perspective, the shadows created are most visible. The viewer is lead throughout the image, watching the way the light plays with the shadows, just as the boy plays with his toy.
The dark shadows on the wall allow the light reflecting up from the pool to be more visible. It’s almost as if the light is acting as the palms on the trees, the shadows being the stems. An abstract version of the tree.
There are long, intense shadows forming all over this picture, surrounding the subject, framing it. This time of day, when the shadows are long, brings out texture in objects such as the pavement. The light and shadow together almost make it sparkle.
This photo was exposed and composed so that the shadows of the subjects were clearly showing – a mimic of what was taking place. The surrounding shadows frame the scene and help provide the glow that they are wrapped in. The shadows help provide a pleasing composition.