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15 Shadow Photography Ideas To Get You Inspired!

Last Updated on

partial photo of a woman's shadow

Shadow photography is a great way to highlight different things and add mood to your photos. However, without the proper inspiration, it can be a challenge to capture all the pictures that you want.

That’s why we created this guide, to highlight a few different ways that you can use shadows in your pictures. Take a little from each idea, combine them, and come up with your own masterpieces!

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The 15 Shadow Photography Ideas

1. Add Depth

shadows of the arches
Image Credit: Mick Haupt, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Easy
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

It’s easy for shadow photography to have a washed-out appearance. Adding a bit of depth to the photo is a great way to combat this. There are many ways to do so, and whatever path that you want to follow to achieve this is a great way to make your photo unique.

2. Don’t Forget About the Background!

silhouette and shadow of two persons on the sidewalk
Image Credit: Kyrylo Kholopkin, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Easy
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

It’s easy to get so focused on the photo’s subject that you forget about everything else going on. When you’re taking photos with shadow photography, it’s essential that you look at the background and what is out there.

If you get really creative, you can use elements of the background to enhance or highlight different potions of the photo.

3. Frame the Subject

framed shot of a walking man's shadow
Image Credit: Rene Böhmer, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Easy
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

Shadows create pathways for the eyes to follow, and great photographers can use these pathways to highlight the subject of a photo. It doesn’t have to be right in the middle, but it can.

You can also make the shadow the subject of the photo, and this is a great way to make your picture stand out. Use the shadows to your advantage!

4. Use Light

shadow of a woman and tree
Image Credit: Bulkan Evcimen, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Easy
Extra Necessary Equipment: Artificial light sources

You can’t get shadows without light, but too much light washes away the shadows completely. Shadow photography is all about finding the right mixture.

Use natural light to your advantage, but we highly recommend having at least one artificial light source on hand if you’re looking to do shadow photography. This gives you an extra element that you can control, which lets you open up the creative pathways to get the pictures that you want.

5. Lower the ISO

ISO camera setting
Image Credit: ShareGrid, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Moderate
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

ISO refers to the amount of light that your camera needs to get great images. If you’re looking to take great shadow photography, one of the best things that you can do is lower the ISO of your camera.

You’ll need to know what you’re doing and have a camera that enables you to go into manual shooting mode, but it’s a whole new level of results once you master it.

6. Highlight the Shadow

young man with tree shadow on his face
Image Credit: Marcus Urbenz, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Easy
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

Sometimes, photographers get too caught up in highlighting the things that aren’t in the shadows. Try to flip things around, and see what you do with the shadows themselves.

It might take a bit of creativity, but once you get a great idea and capture it with your camera, you’ll have a picture that stands out. Get creative and focus on the shadow.

7. Patterns

shadow of a patterned grill
Image Credit: Krišjānis Kazaks, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Easy
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

A whole block of shadow can be a little intimidating to work with, and it can stifle creativity and expression. Instead, try shining light through an object with texture and design. The result is a pattern of shadow that you can project onto different things.

Capturing this pattern with your camera can create stunning images when you get the pairing just right.

8. Ordinary Objects

chanel lipstick on white background
Image Credit: Jocelyn Morales, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Easy
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

Masters of photography can take everyday objects and put a whole new perspective on them. Try your hand at it with shadows. Find a new way to look at something or highlight something that most people otherwise ignore.

Getting somebody to look twice at something that they see every day by putting it in a new light — or shadow — is a great way to take noteworthy photographs.

9. Black & White

black and white shot of a young boy playing with soccer ball
Image Credit: Martino Pietropoli, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Easy
Extra Necessary Equipment: A black-and-white camera or photo-editing software

Few photography styles focus on black-and-white images as much as shadow photography. We highly recommend using black-and-white filters or a camera that can shoot in black and white to see what you can come up with.

If you use editing software to convert images to black and white, you can see what they look like both ways and pick your favorite!

10. Contrast Is Key

shadow on a woman's face
Image Credit: Ana Nichita, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Easy
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

Just because you’re taking photos with shadows doesn’t mean it all needs to look the same. The way to make shadow photographs pop is to add contrast to the mix.

It draws the eye to the photo and enables the photographer to highlight the areas in the image that they want you to look at. If you can master the contrast of your image, you can take great shadow photography.

11. Texturize It

shadow of a person holding a cup
Image Credit: Zeynep Sümer, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Moderate
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

When it’s done right, you can almost feel a textured picture. Creating a textured picture with shadows isn’t always the easiest to accomplish, but if you can do it, you’ll end up with an outstanding picture to show off.

Take your time and practice, though, because it’s not easy to pull off an aesthetically pleasing textured shadow photograph.

12. Abstract Is Fine

shadow of metal stairs on the wall
Image Credit: Randy Laybourne, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Moderate
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

Someone may not know exactly what they’re looking at when they see a picture, but that can still mean that’s a great shot. Shadow photography has a great deal of potential with the abstract, and this is where you can really let your creativity run wild.

You might need to edit a little to get a truly abstract image, but sometimes you can figure out a way to get the job done without any photo-editing software!

13. Edit Away

edited photo of two people walking on a street
Image Credit: Scott Evans, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Challenging
Extra Necessary Equipment: Photo-editing software

Mastering photo-editing software can open up a whole new universe for you to work in. You can change background colors, create patterns, add or remove shadows, and do just about anything else that you can think of.

When it comes to photo editing, it’s only your level of skill with the program and your creativity that can hold you back. There are many possibilities for you to work with, and you can create stunning and mind-bending images.

14. Take Portraits

portrait shot of a man with shadow on his face
Image Credit: Anaya Katlego, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Easy
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

Portrait photography is one of the most common types out there, so if you can put your own spin on it, it’ll stand out. Shadow photography is an outstanding way to add creativity to otherwise mundane portraits.

Combine a few of the tips here to get outstanding portraits!

15. Go Rural

shadows of the trees in the forest
Image Credit: Linda Söndergaard, Unsplash
Ease of Completion: Moderate
Extra Necessary Equipment: None

Sometimes to get a fresh perspective on things, you need to get away from people. Natural light in rural settings is great to work with, but keep in mind that you have a relatively short time span to work with if you want long shadows.

You might have to try over a couple of days to get the exact image that you want and to be able to visualize how long shadows early or late in the day will appear for you.

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Now that you have a better idea of what you can do with shadows in photography, all you need to do is head out and start taking pictures! Let your creative juices flow, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and get plenty of practice in.

Featured Image Credit: Martino Pietropoli, Unsplash

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.