Click to Listen to PodCast – Why Do Photographers Fear The Shadows?[podcast]http://alluremm.com/podcast/Shadows-by-joseph-cristina.mp3[/podcast]
Why Do Today’s Photographers Fear The Shadows?
Granted know one wants a BLACK SHADOW on one side of a person or object within every single Vertical Perspective Image but I think we’ve gone a bit over board now!
I believe to a certain degree, myself included, we have slowly become Shadow Phobic.
I recall like it was yesterday my first “decent” camera purchased while still in high school. It was a Minolta SRT-102 fully manual, metal frame, 35mm that could actually flash sync at a whooping 1/60th of a second! For 1974 technology, it was no slouch and allowed me to photograph solely in Black & White using many different types film while developing all my own work.
The wonderfully strange thing that occurred during this period was my ability to “ see” in black and white! I looked at images as groups of geometric shapes of light & dark and found myself using shadow to give skeleton to a frame and light to provide it with flesh.
This mind set has carried into my current work but more and more I find myself “Fearing the Shadows” becoming a Shadowphobe of sorts, instead of embracing and using them as I had in the past.
Today, we as professional photographers, are using higher & higher ISO capable camera bodies, Reflectors, Homemade Modifiers, Gary Fong’s, Stophen’s, complete arsenals of flashguns from advanced Studio Strobes to High Powered Portable Flashlights with full wireless (i)/eTTL /II functionality.
Are we making better pictures?
If that was not enough now we are seeing a race for FULL HDR in camera processing in both DSLR and Video Cameras!
… just where will it end?
Personally I think HDR has its place and firing off 4, 8, 16 frames or more to capture a huge dynamic range can be helpful in certain situations. But …
Do we really need to see every single pixel in every single shadow? Come on … Do We?
I relate this Shadow Phobia to the many months of drawing & painting nudes in art school. Strangely, once the subjects were completely nude and there was no longer any mystery or anything left for the imagination the illustrative process quickly became mundane & unrewarding!
Are our images slowly becoming … mundane?
It’s my belief an image is like a book, your mind should have the ability to play, create and be free to interrupt each positive & negative space in the frame! Opening up every shadow lessens the ability of the photographer to hide meaning, thoughts, ideas and concepts within the image and to the viewer, it forces the frame to become as unrewarding as the nude models became to illustrate.
On a personal note: 2010, I am going to make it a point to get back to the basics, so to speak, and possibility add another grouping to my Gallery Work with this topic as a focal point.
I want to hear from you!
- Do you Fear The Shadows? … Come on be truthful!
- What are your thoughts on HDR?
- How are you addressing today’s advancing technologies?
Thank you so very much for taking the time to visit and read my many rants!
I think that photographer need to go back to the roots of photography. inclusion of shadows were important. Shadows give depth to the subject. I don’t think HDR is a practice of a photographer per se. I think HDR is an artist using the medium of photography. I have be shooting since the very early 70’s starting with Black and whites. it there were not shadows the image was flat! Use shadows to create drama, emotion, depth, feelings, more. done blow them all out with a strobe. I shoot 99.5% natural light. Hope this helps.
I couldn’t agree more. We do have a sun and it casts shadows. Shadows are completely natural. Maybe that is the problem, especially in fashion. Nothing natural is good 🙂
Personally I love the shadows! As with most people who got into photography before the digital boom, I started with a manual SLR camera shooting Black & White film. I loved developing my own film and making my own prints, the contrast filter became my friend. Working with light and shadow to enhance texture and create depth helped to make the subjects come alive in the my prints. The skills and vision that I developed back then still apply to my work today. When ever possible I try to work with the shadows to enhance my subjects, but most of my commercial work is product photography and seeing all the details are more important than creating a mood or feeling. So bring in the reflectors and fill lights and have at it, I’ll save the shadows for another subject.
As new equipment comes out and photography evolves so will new techniques like HDR. As with all things, HDR has it’s place. If you’re looking to add even more detail throughout the tonal range or want to create a surreal look then HDR is worth checking out. I don’t really have anything against it, I just don’t want to see it overused, and I think we’re approaching that point now.
Cameras, software and computers are all just tools, how you use those tools to create your vision is what’s important. I say play, experiment and enjoy, after all photography is all about expressing what’s inside us.
Personally I am into shadows. I do wonder where this strange phobia comes from (‘cough’ flickr ‘cough’) but it does seem prevalent at the workshops. I have to take the time to explain that shadows are the other side of light… without them we would have no direction, texture, highlights, contrast… drama.
Glad you posted this.
BTW.. I have been called a shadowy person, but that is the least of it.
Thanks so very much for taking the time to comment.. I do like flickr as it has it’s purpose but I do understand that you can’t please everyone; ppl will HATE and LOVE the every same frame with, at times, no rhyme of reason for it. I am thankful for having extra time to be able to shoot personal projects where I can fire a bit out of the box, which I love! Thx again for you valuable time!
Great post. LOL @ Don mentioning Flickr…I was going to mention Myspace photography groups in 2006-2007 when I was new to using any type of social media. People would have complete tantrums and write the worst things about portraits with any shadows whatsoever. If it wasn’t seamless black without a shadow to show, it was considered a bad portrait.
Thankfully I am beyond stupid networks and only interact with photographers who have sense now. I cannot deal with the foolery of the Myspace and Flickr (I only use Flickr to post work in food not my main work) groups advising people that shadows appearing in imagery is bad when the Mona Lisa has shadows!
Close to a year to the day after I wrote this article I was listen to one of my favorite podcasts produced by Kerry Garrison (twitter: @kerrygarrison) called Camera Dojo Podcast. Kerry was interviewing Syl Arena (twitter: @syl_arena) a Speedlite proponent and instructor of “Speedliting Intensive Workshop” were speaking about this vary same topic. Take a moment to subscribe to Kerry’s podcast (http://cameradojo.com) and take a listen to this wonderful and very informative interview.
I find it interesting that photographers would get to a point of fearing shadows. After all, to be a photographer is to be a painter of light and without shadow there is no form or interest to the light! It is just light. There is no longer any mystery and it has become “mundane” as the texture we see because of the shadows is lost. I guess a photographer that fears the shadows would no longer be a photographer by the very definition of the word “photography”!
As for HDR, it has it’s use particularly in rendering landscape images to more closely depict the scene as the eye would see it. The problem with HDR is that it is often over done and takes on an artistic or surreal look, which is ok if that is the intent. My preference though is to use HDR as a tool to capture a scene and render it to what I saw at the time of capture – i.e., if it doesn’t look natural then I have failed in my use of the tool.
The thing to remember about today’s advancing technologies is that there will always be those who misuse it. There will always be those who say a particulary technology is a complete waste of time (yes there are still people fighting the film vs. digital battle), and there will be those who embrace it and will see what it can do for them. For every advance we see in technology, there will be someone who will not be able to see why the advance is useful.
The power of shadows and silhouettes to evoke curiosity and mystery makes an image more emotionally compelling to me. It adds to the photo storyline.
I think it’s because we spend so much time worrying about light: soft, hard, sun, flash, reflected, diffuse/refracted…. that the art of seeing shadow, of what to leave out of the lit picture, has become lost. We spend all that time peeping at histograms and the bleepers on the camera’s screen that we’ve become over-concerned with lighting everything. Black is not a friendly shade to a photog, and getting a true black on a print is kinda like a Holy Grail hunt.
In portrait photography, regardless of the sub-genre, what photographers sometimes neglect (in terms of the lighting) is the emotional intent of the photo. Shadows are extremely important to enhancing the emotional context of an image depending on what that emotional context might be. At other times–again the intent or emotional context of the image should drive this–shadows are better left out of the photo. It’s all about the language of lighting and how, as photographers, we use that language to communicate. A low-key image making great use of shadow may say one thing while a high-key image with few shadows says something different. The subject conveys attitudes and emotions with expression and pose. Lighting, with or without much use of shadow, should underscore those emotions and attitudes, as should elements like composition, environment, wardrobe and more. I don’t think it’s simply about fearing shadows.