The Ultimate Guide to Photo Shadow Play: 30 Ways to Show Shadows Some Love

May 24th, 2011
Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3 

In Photo 101 the third thing they teach you, after “remove your lens cap” and “this is a shutter button,” is to keep shadows out of your photos.

In Photojojo’s Photo 1-0-FUN, shadows are chillin’ at the cool kids’ table.

The secret to success is in knowing how to work with them. Our list-o-awesome shadow ideas can help you get started.

Learn how to make your shadows multi-colored, transform teeny props into massive monsters, or create a cinematic scene with dramatic light.

Unless you’re a Vampire, grab your shadow and head towards the light!

30 Shadow Play Ideas

p.s. Hey, Hot Shot! is choosing 1 grand prize winner to win $10,000, a solo exhibition, and representation at Jen Bekman Gallery. Deadline is 6/22, so get your hot shots in!

Photos that Go Bump in the Night

beforeDark shadows can be downright creepy. So get in touch with your dark side and take some frightening shadow shots.

Stage a menacing shadow creeping after your friend and give your local photo lab technician nightmares for a week!

Pro tip: the closer you are to the light source the bigger your shadow will be.

Shadow Monsters!

beforeAnother fun and easy way to make scary shadow photos is with little ol’ harmless toys.

Just put them real close to a bright lamp and get ready to defend yourself from their giant shadows!

Our toy dinos (if you’ve ever ordered from our shop you’ve got one) would work great for this!

Shadows in Technicolor!

beforeTranslucent colored objects make colored shadows… science is so cool!

Be on the lookout for colored glass, balloons, and–if you’re lucky–translucent umbrellas.

And if that isn’t cool enough, you can even put food coloring in water, throw it in the air and get colored splash shadows!

Interact with Your Shadow

beforeWith the right set up your shadow can do it’s own thing rather than just copy you.

It’s really quite simple:

  • Have one friend (the Shadow) stand in front of a light source and outside of the frame
  • Have another friend stand in the frame and line up with Friend #1’s shadow.

With a little bit of arranging you can make it look like Friend #1’s shadow belongs to Friend #2.

Ponder while your shadow acts out your dreams. Sing while your shadow plays shadow air guitar. Or you could always threaten your shadow with a finger gun like Bader Kamal did (but I doubt he got much money out of ‘em!)

Give Your Shadow Some Props

beforeYour shadow is tired of watching you have all the fun.  Put a prop in the right spot and let your shadow have a go at interactng with the real world.

Pass that soccer ball to your shadow and see what happens.

Shadows also love to throw Frisbees, open doors, and climb ladders. Angie_c even caught hers trying to leave its hand prints on the wall!

(Frogmanor has a whole set of photos over at flickr proving that shadows are also good at climbing stairs!)

Hand Puppets!

beforeIt seems like only yesterday when a flashlight at a slumber party meant there would soon be bunnies dancing on the wall. Or maybe it actually was yesterday…

Check out this hand puppet guide, grab your camera, and maybe with a whole lot of practice you can make a dino as cool as Anandham’s.

Shoot Silhouettes

beforeLetting long shadows stretch past the frame of your image can make your photos look oh so deep and profound.

Back-light your subject so the shadow comes towards your camera.  It will help the image pop and can tell a powerful story.

Turn That Shadow Up-side Down

beforeTake a photo of a crowd in the early afternoon sun. Then flip it upside-down so the shadows have real people for … well, shadows!

You can do this to your pooch too!

Shoot Subjects in Half-Shadow, Half-Light

beforeHiding part of your subject in shadows adds mystery and drama to your photo.

Try hiding different amounts of your subject’s face for a variety of effects. You’ll learn a lot about portrait lighting this way too.

This split-light portrait by Jorege Moreno, Jr. is a stunning example of shadow intrigue. Drama! Drama! Drama!

Give Everyday Scenes Some 3D Wow Factor

beforeRich and rhythmic shadows can make photographs of common places look AMAZING!

The shadow from this fence makes a flat image seem 3D.

Shadows that produce patterns can give interest to bland ground and make all your photog buddies jealous of your skillz.

Perspective Play: Long Shadows from Above

beforeGet up above the crowds (tall buildings help) in the late afternoon. Once the sun is low enough that the shadows get nice and long you can capture some gorgeous shots from this perspective.

The subject has to depend on the shape of its shadow to explain what it is it, the effect can be quite striking!

The Anonymous Crowd

beforeA crowd is a crowd. After awhile, crowd photos all start to look the same.

Shift your perspective and try to capture the crowd’s silhouettes instead. It’s a refreshing change when your candid street shots get in a rut.

Shadow Boxing

beforeSince shadows don’t feel pain, they love to fight.

Let them duke it out; you’ll release all those angry feelings and there won’t be any black eyes in the morning.

A Little Shadow Lovin’

beforeWhat’s more romantic than a photo of your shadows cuddling?

Pretty much nothing.

Shadow Prints without a Camera!

beforeHave you tried out Sunprint paper yet? It’s light sensitive paper that can make a photo out of any shadow!

Cast a (very steady) shadow on a sheet then dunk it in H2O – easy peasy!

Even More Ideas!

P.S. We like to give credit where credit is due. Big thanks to Dave Bond, Ekaterina Nosenko, Natalie Villalobos, Joel “Boy_Wonder”, Carolyn Cochrane, Stefano Corso, Color de la Vida, Jason E.N., Fadzly Mubin, and procrastinatingxnipples for allowing us to use your photos under Creative Commons licenses or special permission! You guys are awesome!

Posted in Inspiration, Tips, Tutorials