Working with shadows. 10/15 ways to capture shadows in your photos.
Digital Photography Fine-art Photography High & Low Key Photography
May 17, 2019

Photography is a creative art form that is based on the game of lights as the name itself suggests. Playing around with different sources of lights defines photography to a large extent. But this is what we are going to divert away from. Can we focus on photography without the lights? Playing around with shadows can also fetch you fantastic results. It will demand a lot of creativity. When you are working with shadows, you are actually exploring the anti-light theory and literally the darker side of photography. Let us take a look at the 10 ways by which you can capture shadows in your photographs and up your anti-light game…


Image courtesy: Contrastly

  1. Shadow as subject: In traditional photography, we try to capture the subjects properly and eliminate the shadows. This is just the reverse. Here, you need to have the shadows as your actual subjects. You may or may not include the actual subjects depending on your composition. Try to get extreme and leave out the actual subjects. To have the shadows filling up the frame, you will require elongated shadows. Elongated shadows are caused when the sun is close to the horizon. This can be possible during sunrise and sunsets. This kind of viewpoint can be unique but the composition needs to be very strong. Since you are only shooting the shadows, you need to have really clear and standout subjects; subjects that can be recognized just by their shape.                                                                                                        

  2. Combination of light and shadow: I have seen a lot of photographers take photographs of old doors and windows. Doors have really cool textures. However, instead of just shooting the door, you can include another object in the frame. This can be anything from street light to a lantern. But rather than having the lantern in the frame, have the shadow of the lantern only. This means that although the texture of the door lends a nice feel to the image, the shadow of the lantern adds that extra creative punch. When you have this unique combination of light and shadow present in the image, you will actually be able to show something to the audience that they may have seen a lot of times in streets but never paid attention!

  3. Silhouettes: Silhouettes are nothing but images depicting dark objects against bright backgrounds. When you place your subject in a backlit situation with bright backgrounds and meter for the bright portions in the frame, the subject is automatically thrown in to complete darkness with only the outline remaining visible. This is completely about manipulating the darkness to your advantage in order to create a particular composition.                                                        

  4. Hard and soft shadows: Every photographer has to learn about the different types of lights. You have the hard light, the soft light, the spotlight and other different types of lightings. A hard light results in a crystal clear shadow of the object. These shadows have well-defined edges and can easily be used as the main subjects in your frame. Make sure that the object can be easily recognized from the shape of the shadow. In case of soft light, however, the shadow formed will be translucent. The edges will not be as prominent as in cases of hard lights. These shadows cannot be easily used as your main subjects since the shape is not clearly visible. These lend support to the actual image by adding an extra dimension.

  5. Colored shadows: If you thought shadows are black, think again! You can use colored shadows in your images too. When you throw light on to a translucent object, some amount of light does actually pass through. Now certain parts of the color spectrum are actually passing through. This lends color tones to your shadows. Colored shadows can be created using stained glasses.

  6. Shadows to get attention to details: You can effectively use shadows to make your audience pay attention to the significant details. For example, if you are shooting a portrait where you want to redirect all the attention to one eye, you can cover the rest of the face in shadow as well. You are actually using the shadow to throw light on to the part of the frame where you want all the focus.                                                                                                                                                       

  7. Show the texture: Shadows can enhance the beauty of your textures. The best example can be that of rough terrain with the shadows created by the setting or rising sun. The sun is at a very low angle, creates several shadows due to the roughness of the land.

  8. Tonal contrast: Shadows can add a different dimension to the bright images. They lend the tonal contrast that is so essential for making wonderful images. Street photography is one genre where this can be very effectively used.

  9. Add depth: To convey the three-dimensional aspect of an image, depth is mandatory. Shadows solve this purpose. Shadows can actually introduce the sense of depth and distance in your image. In a flat image, it is often difficult to judge the distance between objects, present in the image. You can achieve this by introducing shadows in the image.

  10. Emotion: Emotions need not always be enacted. Some emotions are transpiring within. The face reflects them. With the help of shadows and highlights, beautiful portraits can be made. Shadows present of the face of a person reveals a story. A side lighting on to the face of your subject can throw half of the face into darkness and create a very suspicious feeling. Similarly, shadows of patterns falling on to the face of a model can reveal a lot of interesting emotions. Make sure that the eyes are sharp and glittering.


Shadow is one of the most important aspects of photography. Once the basic exposures are done, playing around with lighting should be the first thing in your mind. Shadows and highlights may be opposite to each other but they complement each other in making great images!

Digital Photography Fine-art Photography High & Low Key Photography
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