Embrace The Shadows

Michael Laubscher Michael 1 Comment

It’s always about the best light! Isn’t It??

As a photographer, light is a need because with no light, comes no photograph.


One has to remember, it is not only just about light.

The thing most photographers dread is when their subject moves into the shade.

Yes it is not ideal but this does not mean you have to put the camera down and curse the shade.

You need to embrace shade!

Shadows are just as valuable as the light, it gives depth and shape to objects.

That’s why I always remind myself, the wonderful side effect of light is shadow. Using shadows to your advantage can give your picture a dramatic edge.

I ask of you to not run from the shadows but embrace them.




Train your eye not only to look for good light, train them to look for good shade/shadows as well.

Shadows are created when light falls on a subject through which it cannot pass. So when looking at your subject, always remember to look behind it as well.

I  look for Shadows created by big trees along riverbeds when out in the field. It could be that your subject has moved into the thickets, just wait for it to move into that bit light coming through the canopy resulting in a well lit subject and dark dramatic background.

Your subject could also be in a lit up area right on the edge of these thickets and depending on where the light is coming from, it could result in a dark background.

Look for shadows created by other animals. A good example of this could be a large herd of elephant with their babies.

A few twigs and leaves are not always a bad thing. I LOVE them if they are the result of a shadow falling onto the subjects face resulting in a very mystical type image.

Mountains or hills can be a huge help if a dark background is what you looking for.

This first image was taken in the early morning as the sun rouse over the Waterberg. You will notice that the sun was high enough to light up my subjects but still low enough to cast a dark shadow on the hill side.

In this image the sun was a little bit higher but was not in a position where it could light up the hill behind my subject. Dense cloud cover also helped this one a bit.

Lastly “artificial” shadows created by a spotlight can play a good roll when it comes to night time photography. The spotlight beam is focused on your subject and therefore creates a deep dark shadow behind it which is exactly what you want.

To create images like these where your subject is well lit up and a dark background all depends on where the light is coming from and where you, as the photographer, position yourself.

A last tip to achieve this now that you know what to look for is that when you photograph a scene where there are very dark areas either in front or behind your subject, you will have to underexpose to keep those dark areas dark.

Your camera does not think the same way you do. It will see all the dark areas and want to make them lighter and as a result of this, your well lit subject will also be lit up and therefore be overexposed.

To understand a bit more about exposure compensation, take some time to read the blogs on this topic.

It will give you a better understanding on when, how and why to over or underexpose to create your desired shot.

Until next time.

Happy Snapping!


About the Author

Michael Laubscher


Haunted by the allure of spectacular wildlife and African sunsets. I am a hunter-gatherer of natural light and candid moments, an appetite whet with a taste of the unknown and the smell of home; “This Is Africa”! I look forward to sharing life long experiences with you and helping you capture them. Please feel free to go check out my Instagram account

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