Creative landscape photography: master the dark art of shadows and shade

Creative landscape photography: tips to master the dark art of shadows and shade

Someone once said that the best landscape photography is taken when your shadow is longer than your height, and this adage is worth considering when you’re deciding what time of day to shoot landscapes – early or late. That’s not to say that fantastic shots can’t be taken at other times, but as a rule the lower the sun is in the sky the better the quality of light. We’ve all know that great light is essential to a photo, but in this post we’ve compiled some of the best landscape photography tips from the experts to help you learn how to better photograph the shadows this light creates

Creative landscape photography: tips to master the dark art of shadows and shade

Image copyright Mark Hamblin

At the so-called ‘golden hours’ of landscape photography the sunlight is more parallel to the horizon, grazing the landscape and creating long shadows that give it a strong, three-dimensional quality.

Summer evenings are a perfect time to get out and explore your local area, making use of the low sun and long shadows it casts to add depth to your landscape images and reveal textures and detail that are normally lost when the sun in beating down from above.

The great thing about summer is that the days are both longer and warmer, giving you plenty of opportunities after your daily routine to shoot stunning landscapes late in the day, and you don’t end up freezing half to death in the process!

To make the most of lengthening shadows as the sun drops towards the horizon, shoot with the light coming into your picture at right angles. Side-lighting the landscape will add depth and create a three-dimensional effect.

Pictures taken with the sun coming from over your shoulder will lack this quality because the shadows will be cast away from the camera and the picture will look horribly flat.

Backlighting can work well as an alternative approach, especially if you’re shooting a tall subject such as a tree (to learn more about natural light, read our guide See the light like a pro: everything you were afraid to ask about natural light).

When shooting like this, try to place the sun behind the subject so that it casts a dramatic shadow that extends directly towards the camera. This will also reduce the risk of unwanted flare.

PAGE 1: Where to place the sun
PAGE 2: Nailing exposure
PAGE 3: Get creative with shadows
PAGE 4: Pro tips for shooting a low sun and shadows


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