Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tip: Don't be afraid of the dark ...

Shining some light on the subject of shadows.

First year Giants T-ball coach Todd Hall, 
top right, gives some batting pointers to 
Lijah Williams, 6. The low evening sun-
light from behind not only reveals the 
texture and details of the infield, it 
creates shadows which become the main 
subject of the photograph.
Photographers talk an awful lot about light. After all, without light, there is no photography. How light interacts with the subjects and scenes we photograph can greatly influence how viewers feel about a photograph.

However, if you really want to create interest and drama in your photographs, the absence of light is just as important.

Shadows in the wrong place can ruin a good picture. Mid-day sunlight and florescent light from the ceiling can create ugly shadows in people's eye sockets or under their noses or chins.

Don't be afraid of shadows, though. If you really examine the light in your scene, shadows can make your photographs really come alive.

It's the interplay between light and shadow that reveals shape, form and texture. That interplay creates contrast and drama. Shadows themselves can even become the main subject of your photograph.

Rachel Z unleashes her stylistically diverse music on 
the audience at the Savannah Jazz Festival in 2004. The
spotlight from behind creates drama and reveals form 
by highlighting the edges of the subject.

President George W. Bush returns to Air Force One 
after stumping for Republican candidates in Savannah 
in 2003. Seemed appropriate to photograph a cowboy 
riding (flying?) off into the sunset.
If you want to take advantage of shadows, it's important to notice what direction your source of light is coming from. Light from the side, such as early morning/late afternoon sunlight or window light, is great for revealing texture and shape. Side light creates an almost three-dimensional effect and can cast long, dramatic shadows across your photograph.

Using light from behind a subject is most obvious in silhouettes. Silhouettes with pretty sunrises or sunsets are popular, but also a bit cliche. Properly exposing backlit subjects to reveal some detail in your subject without blowing out the background is tricky and requires some practice. But light from behind can accentuate the form of your subject by highlighting the edges.

If you really want to take your photography to the next level, start exploring light and shadow. Don't be stationary. Walk around your subjects and notice how the interplay of light and shadow changes. Pay attention to how the quality of light changes with the time of day.

And don't be afraid of the dark.

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