15 Photography Tips for Capturing the Shadow Side of Light

I am a photographer who is obsessed with light. I guess that’s kind of normal for a photographer. After all, without light, there would be no photography. But, like with most things you can’t focus on one side of the spectrum and totally ignore the other. With light, you will always find shadow following close behind. When featuring the light in my day to day images I find that I’m equally as focused on how the light interacts with my subject, which quite often means watching for, and incorporating shadows.

Using your subject’s shadow, or even a shadow cast from something nearby, you’re allowing it to share the stage with the light. When they work together they can create some beautiful visual music! And when it comes to elevating everyday objects into an art form, shadows can be the just the visual element to help you do it. Shadows can be mysterious, obscure, defined, exaggerated, elongated, and expressive and quite frankly, using them to their greatest creative ability can make for some pretty fun and unique images. Here’s a few of my own shadow stories and ideas for capturing your own light and of course, shadows.

  • Light and Shadow. 1 of 16
    Light and Shadow.
    They go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other. Keep your creative eye open for both.
  • The unexpected shadow. 2 of 16
    The unexpected shadow.
    Sometimes shadows can appear seemingly out of nowhere, cast from something nearby. In this shot, it isn't my daughter's shadow, it's my own. But, I lined it up with my daughter's feet so that even though she is looking directly into the sun, she's cast a curious and unexpected shadow amidst all that blinding light.
  • Light and liquid. 3 of 16
    Light and liquid.
    When you throw can create all kinds of interesting things together. In this shot, it's the strange shadow of the pint glass (and not the glass itself) that really creates visual interesting in this restaurant table shot.
  • Wall art. 4 of 16
    Wall art.
    Whether it's a wall in your own house or something outside, walls can be the perfect place to stalk shadows. And the thing about walls is no two are exactly alike. The more interesting the wall, the more interesting the image. I saw this shadow cast on a wall in Hollywood when I asked my group of friends to pose for a picture. This ain't your mama's date night photo!
  • Mirror image. 5 of 16
    Mirror image.
    Shooting shadows of your pets can be an awesome way to accentuate their little quirks. Capturing the shadow in its entirety can add to the charm. In shots like this, it's almost as if the shadow of my dog has a personality all its own.
  • Connection captured. 6 of 16
    Connection captured.
    Shadows don't have to lack expression. In fact, because you're not looking at facial expressions of a shadow you have to really look at gesture. Holding hands is the perfect way to show a close connection between shadow subjects. I love this one in particular because it's of myself and my youngest daughter, doing what we always do when we stroll together; hold hands.
  • Stealing the show. 7 of 16
    Stealing the show.
    There are sometimes when the shadow of something begs for your attention far more than the object itself. When that happens, why not let the shadow take center stage. The image itself ends up being a lot more creative and compelling when you give a shadow it's due.
  • Shape shifting. 8 of 16
    Shape shifting.
    Of course, it all depends on the light but sometimes the shadow's interesting shape proves to be even more interesting than the subject. Like this unassuming pinecone. Cute, small and somewhat misplaced on this sidewalk wouldn't be nearly as interesting without its shadow self. Just the mere shape of it surely makes the shot.
  • Shadow stories. 9 of 16
    Shadow stories.
    Some shadows are more than mere miscellaneous shapes, they are outlines of an entire stories. Consider seeking out a number of shadows that work together to create a large whole. This shot is one that captures a part of my quintessential morning routine. No words necessary.
  • Shadow self. 10 of 16
    Shadow self.
    Self-portraits are a great way to tell the story of you. Believe it or not, our shadows can say a lot about us. The shape of our clothing line speaks of the season while the shape of our head and shoulders reflects the length and style of our hair. Pictures of our own shadows can tell us something about us at the moment of capture as well as putting us in the context of our location. This shot is me waiting on our driveway for the kids to climb into the car for our morning run to school. The long shadows prove its early morning.
  • Reflecting on shadows. 11 of 16
    Reflecting on shadows.
    When the street is slick with rain, or the sand shiny with the outgoing tide, a shadow often becomes more of a reflection than anything else. When you discover a reflective shadow, there can be undeniable allure. On the eve of this low tide, I was lucky enough to be sharing a photo shoot with a dear friend. The pictures we captured of one another, our shadows reflecting with the ocean water are simply magical.
  • Creating a mood. 12 of 16
    Creating a mood.
    Even in the subtle light of a café's candle, shadows can be found. Sometimes the less obvious it is, the more emotion it can evoke. This shot was captured on an unforgettable evening with friends in Italy. The shadow says it all.
  • Adding impact. 13 of 16
    Adding impact.
    Sometimes the light makes the entire shot. And when you choose to include the shadow that compliments that light, the impact is undeniable. Although the glow of these butterfly wings is the main focus, it's certainly the shadow in both its intricacies and exaggeration that help give the shot it's emotion.
  • Adding Interest. 14 of 16
    Adding Interest.
    I love to capture my daily mug (hence the hashtag #mymugshot) and of all crazy things, I'm not sure I have ever really run out of unique and different ways to capture such a seemingly mundane object. Some say they key might lie in using different mugs but I think the light and shadow play equal importance. Sometimes the more ordinary the object, the more extraordinary the shadow.
  • Curious exaggerations. 15 of 16
    Curious exaggerations.
    I tend to play with my camera in the kitchen most of all. Something about how often I'm in there I suppose or perhaps it's the shape, texture, color, variety of all that goes on in the kitchen. That and the light! When modest apples cast curious shadows like these, I'll always grab for my camera.
  • A stroke of nostalgia. 16 of 16
    A stroke of nostalgia.
    Shadows can often look like dreams, perhaps that's why I'm so drawn to them. They can evoke a sense of nostalgia and melancholy like nothing else. Whether it's early morning light or the last light of a warm summer day, long shadows like this one of a friend and I stir up all kinds of wonderful memories. I love when images have the power to do that.



For more about Tracey and how she elevates the everyday, visit her at

For the story about how she and her teen got here, take a peek at their first post at Reframed.

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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