Use shadows to your photographic advantage

Lighten up your photographic sensibilities

When the sun shines, shadows come out to play, giving you a chance to create some unconventional photographs. So pick up your camera and catch a few before they flee at the approach of clouds.

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Normally relegated to a supporting role of rounding out forms, sharpening textures, and brightening pictures by their contrasting darkness, shadows can on occasion rise to a starring role.

But only if you help. To get started, all you have to do is look for them. And in some cases, make them.

Where do you find shadows? The obvious answer is wherever you find sunlight. The better question is: Where do you find shadows that can make good photographs? The easiest place to find shadows is on any broad, uniform, and, usually, flat surface. For example, sandy beaches, snowy fields, parking lots, floors, and walls, be they of cliffs, buildings, or the interiors of homes.

Often the best shadows occur early and late in the day, when the sun peeks through windows or slants outdoors elongating the landscape. Indoors, you can create your own shadow patterns by strategically placing flower vases, fruits and vegetables, or even the infrequent cooperative child in the path of light.

Normally, you want shadows to be quite dark, black even. While underexposure is not often recommended for digital pictures you may want to try it when photographing shadows. When in doubt, bracket exposure (or shoot in the RAW file format and bracket when editing) by both underexposing and overexposing the subject to see what looks better. When you open the image in editing software, don’t hesitate to play with the brightness and contrast controls to exaggerate the shadow effect.

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