People say that the spaces between musical notes are just as important as the notes themselves. Interestingly, this train of thought can similarly be applied to photography. Contrary to popular belief, the lack of light in an image does not necessarily mean it is a flawed photo. In fact, the presence of darkness or shadows can often lead to intriguing images. In doing so, the mood and visual power of a photograph can be enhanced.

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The bottom line is that shade and shadows are equally important to the composition as light. Shadows are great tools for creating beautiful images that are both full of contrast and form. With the tips provided in this article, we hope that you will learn how to better utilize shadows around you and that they will inspire you to re-think the way light interacts with a subject!

Shadows as a framing device

The use of shadows can be traced back to the early days of cinema. It is no surprise that this remains a popular technique among filmmakers and photographers since shadows can be used as powerful framing devices. Be aware of the way light behaves as they can act as a natural framing device that helps to emphasise your subject.

When viewing an image, shadow framing prevents our eyes from straying away from a particular area. For instance, when shooting portraits through open windows where lights are streaming in, shadows may be cast on the model’s face but this leaves light across their eyes. This forms a well-framed shot that makes viewers’ eyes go directly to the model’s face.

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Shadows can also be viewed as a way of hiding parts of the frame. When one part of the shot is obstructed due to darkness, the viewer’s eyes naturally go towards the more brightly-lit open space where your subject is placed!

Shadows as leading lines

It is important to notice the presence of lines since they are one of the fundamental elements of any good photograph. A great way to use shadows is to have them act as leading lines. While this may seem similar to shadow framing, the difference lies in the way your eye travels. With leading lines, the shadows help to journey your eye through the shot instead of landing them directly onto the subject.

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Leading lines often work well with harsh lighting as this leads to dramatic well-defined lines. You may choose to utilise a single shadow or multiple shadows depending on your directorial intent.

Create mood and drama

Needless to say, lighting plays a significant role in eliciting a variety of reactions from viewers. By exposing little details while keeping the majority of it in darkness, this creates a sense of mystery or even impending doom. This helps to create a dark and sombre mood that causes visual interest and draws viewers into the scene.

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Learn how to exploit dark shadows to increase dimensional interest and textures. A tip in experimenting with shadows is by creating silhouettes. To do so, simply place your subject in front of a light source when setting up a shot. For a dramatic silhouette shot, make sure that the shape of your subject is distinctly outlined.

We recommend using wider lenses such as the Canon EF35mm f/1.4L II USM and the Canon EF24mm f/1.4L II USM in order to take in the entire scene of shadows before you. The wide apertures on these lenses also makes them great choices of gear for shooting with limited light.

Create depth and perspective 

When viewing architecture or landscapes with our naked eyes, they tend to appear three-dimensional. Unfortunately, this may not always translate to our photos. Ever tried capturing such shots only to end up with them looking flat and two-dimensional? Bid this problem goodbye when you learn to use shadows to create depth and perspective!

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When there is no depth to a scene, viewers will lose a sense of perspective. One tip is to shoot early in the day or later in the afternoon as the soft glow from the sun will help to cast shadows across your subject and effectively enhance its depth.

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The next time that you are out with your camera, make it a point to notice the shapes of shadows and think about how they can be used to add a dimension to your image. If so, you will end up with creatively-crafted compositions that are sure to attract the attention of viewers.

Managed to experiment with shadows with these tips? Do remember to tag us at #CanonSG for a chance to be featured!