Light and the absence of light – shadows – is essential in photography. Now I’m not just referring to the shadows that follow us around on a sunny day. I’m also referring to the dark portions in a scene. But it’s easy to overlook the shadows that light creates, we naturally take them for granted.
Before we picked up our cameras, how many of us actually considered shadows as important? It is shadows that shape the light and that draw attention to the light. Shadows can help us create stronger compelling images. Therefore when we are creating photographs we should also think about the absence of light rather than just the light itself.
We should think about mastering the shadows just as we do mastering the light. There can be magic when light and shadows work together. If we perceive shadows as an important element, combined with the light, they can transform your images in 5 different ways.
- No.01Emphasize dimensions
Light and shadows create the required differentiation between tones that is the basis of our perceptions. Those tones wrap around subjects, emphasizing the dimensions of those subjects and separating them from the scene around them. This creates depth in a 2 dimensional photograph.
- No.02Emphasize focus on subject
Shadows can act as a blocker, separating the photograph into two distinct areas; the dark part and the brighter part. When a subject is placed in an illuminated portion of the scene, more emphasis is drawn to the subject, as if a spotlight has been cast upon them. This emphasis moves viewers eyes to your subject, creating a stronger image.
Light and dark are in opposition to one another, creating contrast. Contrast in an image draws viewers eyes to those areas of contrast, creating a stronger image.
- No.04Strengthen compositions
Think about how light, and the absence of light, can contribute to the composition: leading lines, frames, negative space. All these compositional elements will lead the viewers eyes to what really matters and get rid of what doesn’t.
- No.05Add another graphic element
Light can create an additional graphic element in a photograph, a literal shadow of a subject. Shadows of a subject can add significant substance to your image. An object and it’s shadow can strengthen each other. Sometimes shadows can be so interesting you may choose to focus on just the shadow and it then becomes the subject.