How to take captivating shadow photos.
Know your light source.
Whether you’re in the studio or on the streets, pay attention to the direction of the light, as it will have the most effect on how your shadows turn out. Early in the morning or in the evening during golden hour are the perfect times to capture long shadows. Around midday, shadows will be almost nonexistent, although the hard light will make for sharp, crisp shapes. Shoot on a sunny day for the most defined shadows, and look for side-lit situations, where you shoot perpendicular to the sun.
“I started by getting comfortable with natural light,” says Fuller. If you want to move to the studio, Fuller recommends starting with a single artificial light source and learning how to shape shadows using one key light. “From there I learned how to use light modifiers to create interesting shadows or get rid of the shadows I don’t want,” says Fuller. Keep it simple and work your way up to more complex setups.
Enhance contrast with black and white.
Shadows make for striking black-and-white photos, since they naturally have more contrast and dynamic range. Black and white can help you amplify the effect of shadow photography where color can distract from the simplicity of the form. But don’t feel like you have to go monochrome with every shadow photo. The unique tones in shadows can be a great way to add a touch of unexpected intrigue to your image and pull your color palette together.
Look for interesting patterns and shapes.
Unusual shadows naturally draw the viewer’s eye, as they put just enough of a twist on something familiar to make it unfamiliar. Shadows can also contour around another subject, such as a person, which can be used creatively in portrait photography. Keep your eyes peeled for the patterns and shapes that shadows make as you photograph. You might just be surprised at how many are out there once you start to look.
Dial in your camera settings.
“In order to get nice, deep shadows, expose for the highlights,” says Adams. Try to shoot in manual mode, since your camera will want to compensate for the extremely dark areas by balancing the exposure. Keep your ISO low, as higher ISOs will lift your darker areas.
If your shot doesn’t look as dramatic as you were envisioning, don’t worry. When you bring your photos into an editing tool like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, you’ll have room to alter your shadows and highlights, especially if you shoot in RAW. You may find it helpful to edit in black and white and save color for the end, to keep yourself focused on the image’s tonal range.