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How to Create Dramatic Portraits with Shadow Photography [video]

In this video by Shutterstock Tutorials, Robbie Janney shows you how to create dramatic portraits with shadow photography by using everyday objects to create those shadows.

Shadow portraits

If you are after something different to do with your portraits, using shadows can create dramatic effects and make your photos stand out.

Shadow photography is an interesting niche to explore. You can achieve it by doing the following:

What you need:

  • A hard key light
  • A backlight (like a Quasar or similar)
  • Backdrop
  • Some cool household items that light can pass through (colanders, wicker baskets, film strips etc.

When shooting through the objects, the light can become softer instead of the hard light you are trying to achieve. This problem can be attributed to the light source’s aperture. Similar to your camera, when you want an image with nice sharp edges, you close your aperture to one of its smallest settings.

It’s the same with your light source. Just in this instance, you’re limiting the amount of light being put out, not absorbed. This limits the amount of diffraction that your light projects creating a harsher shadow when passing through your opaque object.

Most lights won’t have an aperture setting, so to cut down the beam of light, cut a hole in a piece of black cardboard and put that close to your light source using a stand to narrow the light beam. You can even change the shape of the hole in your cardboard for different effects.

Once you have your studio setup, and light ready, get creative with your shots by changing up the angle of light, subject, or the type of object you are sending the light through.

Experiment to get your best shots.

Have fun and share your shots in the comments below.


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Caz Nowaczyk
Caz Nowaczyk

– the dPS Managing Editor, lives in Wollongong, Australia and has worked as a photographer, filmmaker, and designer in her business, Exposure Arts and Media, for 15 years. Her background extends to Digital Content Management, and Editorial Design. In her spare time, she composes music as Dreamgirl and the Motorist. Since the age of 12, she knew she would be a photographer – the other stuff came as a surprise!

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