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

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

Nailing exposure


Creative landscape photography tips: how to expose for shadows

Image copyright Mark Hamblin

Landscape photography that contain lots of shadow areas can present some difficulties in terms of accurate exposure, because these dark areas can adversely influence the meter reading, resulting in over-exposure.

Conversely, if the shot is under-exposed, the shadows will block up completely and all detail will be lost – although sometimes this can be very effective too, so be creative and experiment with exposure for unusual results.

The key to achieving a well-lit image is to expose for the midtones, then the highlights and shadows should look after themselves.

However, you should remember that a sky that is much brighter than the foreground will need to be balanced by using a graduated Neutral Density (ND) filter to reduce the exposure by one or two stops (find out what every photographer should know about using ND grad filters).

Long shadows are a handy compositional aid too, and can be used as a lead-in line that guides the eye to the main subject (learn more about lead-in lines and the other rules of photo composition).

Shadows can also add a real sense of drama to your images, helping to portray mood as well as concentrating the viewer’s attention on the strongly lit parts of the picture.

Similarly, the interplay between shadow and light can be used creatively to produce a really striking image. This works especially well with a repetitive shadow pattern – one created by low light bursting through a line of regularly 
spaced trees, for example.

Graphic shapes

Don’t forget about black-and-white photography either. The graphic nature of shadows makes them 
an ideal subject to convert to monochrome.

High contrast black-and-white images with crisp clean lines look tremendous and have great artistic appeal, working particularly well with the sharp shapes of urban environments.

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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