Don’t Be Avoid the Dark: Use Shadows in Lighting

September 14, 2022

Don’t Be Avoid the Dark: Use Shadows in Lighting


Many novice photographers know how important it is to find the right environment. Often equipment-related challenges are not a problem when you have the right lighting available. However, even if there is no natural light, using LEDs or strobes can help achieve professional success.


A fairly common mistake we have all made at some point in our developmental process is the over use of lighting. Through the course of our experience we evolve and devolve – just look at several of your pieces you’ve shot over time. You’ll see it – something you tried that changed everything, maybe something you stopped doing. For me, the discovery of shadow changed the entire game. In the beginning, I had a lot of light in my work. They were bright, overly saturated and had too much depth to them. The shadows were almost always cast in front of me or on the ground but not where you would expect them to be. For example one of my first pieces was shot with a remote flash and it was firing directly at the model.


When you first start as a photographer, it can be quite overwhelming and confusing. But that’s to be expected. With so many varieties of different-type flashes, as well as light modifiers, it can be a bit difficult to find the right tools. The most important thing to have in your arsenal is a good-quality everything: flashes, speed lights, ring lenses, Kino Flo's and LED panels, hat's a lot of possible lighting combinations. Depending on which lighting techniques you use, one sitting can produce a whole bunch of different images.

The best way to figure out your 'lighting voice' is to try out different types and see what looks best, with lots of different styles. One type won't be a 100% wrong answer.


I eventually became more fascinated with the shadows that light creates than with the light itself. You must have both. Without shadow, there usually isn’t light or there's too much of it. In photography and video, after all, lighting is just about the allocation of light and shadow. It's your image! You tell the light where to go by giving directions all the same as you would a model


I have found that the bulk of what I'm interested in aesthetically is primarily single source, whether constant or strobe. We typically use either an unmodified or a beauty dish, and we like to say that our photos are both noir-ish and edgy. For some visuals of this process, watch black and white films from the 40s – think great noirs like The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and Citizen Kane. What do you see? Shadows play a big part in what creates mood and can be achieved cheaply and easily by most people.


Thanks,

- Darin


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