Updated: 04/02/2012

Judicious Use of Shadows

in Creative Composition 


Each of the following photos uses shadows in a different way.

By letting light from a window fall across this guitar, the plane surface is broken up in an interesting pattern. shadow 1

Waiting until late in the day when the sun is at an oblique angle brings out the maximum form, texture, and depth in this landscape.

Had the sun been directly overhead, as it is in the photo below, the effect would have been lost.

In this case overhead sunlight brings out the texture in this old barn. Flat lighting (i.e., diffused light) would have destroyed the texture.
Here shadows are being used as leading lines, as well as adding an interesting pattern to the composition.
shadow 5

Keeping the shadow areas toward the camera emphasizes the depth in this field of crosses that mark the graves of veterans.



shadow 6  The judicious use of a spotlight highlights the title of this paper and downplays less important elements. Below, a spotlight adds character to the photo of the Bible.

shadow 7

Balancing highlights and shadows -- without the highlights turning chalky or the shadows losing detail and going completely black -- involves good control of exposure.

Videographers with a grasp of film techniques have learned to use the zone system to establish correct exposure and capture a full range of tones. This system can also be used in video, as explained here.


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