Stop shadows from ruining your photos with these 3 easy tips

January 30, 2015

Whether shooting indoors or outside, available light can ruin your photos. Fortunately, it's easy to counter shadows and get beautiful photos you'll love.

Stop shadows from ruining your photos with these 3 easy tips

Anyone who's seen bad outdoor shots of weddings or other subjects on sunny days will know the effect of harsh, dark sun-induced shadows. Those shadows render otherwise great photos completely useless. Outdoor and indoor light can ruin pictures by casting shadows over subjects, but some simple techniques can eliminate shadows and greatly improve photos.

1. Fill flash is an outdoor photographer's best friend

Whether shooting humans or animals in the outdoors, the sun can make it difficult to get good shots. Harsh shadows will often fill in the eye sockets and areas below the nose and neck, making it impossible to see the eyes and other areas of the subjects.

Thankfully, nearly every modern camera comes with a fill flash that's not strong enough to use as a conventional flash, but will fill in shaded areas with natural-looking light. A fill flash does exactly what its name implies—it fills in the shaded areas without using an overpowering full flash.

If a camera does not have a fill flash, a conventional flash rotated upward with a piece of white cardboard or stiff paper affixed to the backside with a rubber band or tape can bounce the light off the flash and act as a fill flash.

2. Affordable light diffusers help defeat shadows

Another way to defeat shadows is to use a light diffuser to tone down the otherwise bright, harsh sunlight or bright indoor lighting. A light diffuser is a piece of opaque fabric that allows most but not all of the available light to penetrate it and spreads out the light that gets through, thus eliminating potential shadows.

Some light shading still remains possible for artistic effect, but the dark, impenetrable shadows caused by the sun and indoor lighting will be gone. Diffusers generally are either held in place by an assistant or placed on stands and positioned accordingly. Some also fit over the lenses of photography lights.

3. Reflectors and additional lights can fill in shaded areas

Strategically placing different shades of fabric to reflect available light will prevent shadows, while letting you better control the tones and shading.

Using additional lights to eliminate most or all shadows, which will defeat the dark areas created by the lighting source, can also help give you greater control over light sources and subjects. The backup lights generally vary in power and intensity and can be synchronized with the photographer's flash unit to create perfect lighting.

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