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  • Cindy Ellis

Shadows: Drama, Texture and Hidden Identity

Shadows play an important role in photography but can be detrimental to the photo as well. Using shadows well in a photo can add drama, texture and even hide the identity of an object in your photo.

  • Time of Day. It is obvious we need a light source like the sun to cast shadow but the time day effects the shadow's length. Midday shadows are shorter while in the early morning and evening shadows are longer. When dealing with longer shadows, a wider lens may be needed to capture the entire shadow. Remember when using super wide lenses, the lines on the edges may appear curved.

  • Shadow Position. Front light casts shadows behind the subject. Side lighting adds texture and depth but may cover part of the subject. Backlighting outlines the subject with light but may leave the front of the object dark or silhouetted.

  • HDR --High Dynamic Range. HDR is often used to add contrast to a scene. The effect of stacking images can illuminate the shadows. Make sure you use a matrix meter when applying HDR. While a great tool, HDR can illuminate both the light and dark equally which sometimes creates a surreal image that does not look like the scene photographed.

  • Spot Meter. When not using HDR consider using the spot meter. The spot meter allows the camera’s light meter to read the exposure off a small area in the viewfinder not the entire image. This can be important if you want to achieve a photo of a single ray of light highlighting an object on a dark and shadowy background.. The matrix or standard light meter would equally weight the light in the photography and produce a lighter photograph that would not highlight the ray of light. A spot meter was used in the photo below.

  • Silhouettes. Use silhouettes to your advantage. Travelling or walking along the beach with the other folks admiring the sunset, turn these other folks into silhouettes so they become an interesting part of your photo. Silhouettes also allow you to hide the identity of those photographed. For more information on silhouettes visit

  • Unwanted Shadows. You may not want your shadow or a shadow of the trashcan to be a highlight in your photo. Remember often where there is one shadow there are others. A reflector can be a great tool to reposition, block or filter light which allows the photographer to reposition and remove shadows from a photo.

This week's photo challenge is entitles shadows. Feel free to share your favorite shadow image to

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