The light and shade of photography

Play with Light and Shade to sublimate the everyday life.

Do you know when an image has an emotional impact on you? How would you describe it? What qualities of that particular image comes to mind?

Is it a bright photo, the sun shining, the lights or the tones? Does it make you happy?
Do you have the same feeling for a more dark photo? Is this the shadows that create a particular vibe?

In the 19th century, the ancestor of the photographic camera was an optical device used by artists to make quick sketches. Essentially, a pinhole was used to form an inverted image that was then projected on an opposite wall of a dark room.

From there, lenses were used to cast sharper images and what we now know to be the photographic camera was born.

Since those days, photographers have used key elements to give and get a variety of emotions from their viewers.

  • Light
  • Shade (shadow)
  • Reflection
  • Direction
  • Contrast

Like Ansel Adams and his famous use of light in black and white images, or Tom Hussey’s incredible reflections in his award-winning “Reflections of the Past” campaign, these elements have been used throughout time to create stunning images.

We see these elements every day and everywhere... in the magazine, billboard, portraiture and much more... 

Through Light and Shade photography, you can attenuate the depth of field with darkness to get mysterious photographs. Light and Shade are used to create amazing and memorable images.

Let's talk about Light & Shade.



Natural light, daylight, sunlight, artificial light are all playing an important role in photos and helps to create the mood.

Lights can be different depending on the seasons, the weather and your location in the world

Artificial light, like flash and fluorescent lights, can be used to experiment with and to cast different colours and intensity over your shots.

 Natural Light

Natural light vs artificial

Do you prefer natural light? Consider taking images at Golden Hour, which is that magical time just after sunrise or just before sunset.

Photographers love shooting during this time as their images tend to be cast with a beautiful and soft golden glow.
Portraits and landscape shots, in particular, are fun to take during this time of day. 

The Quality of Light Produced by Open Shade

The sky is a much larger light source than the sun; therefore, the light produced by open shade is much softer. It is multidirectional and produces shadows with gradual edges rather than those with hard edges produced by direct sun.

Direct Sunlight

Not ideal for all subjects; it can sometimes be too harsh, or overpowering. Certain subjects that require a softer mood lighting or a more even type of light photograph better in open shade. 

Softer mood lighting


Artificial light

If you’re interested in exploring artificial light, know that different bulbs produce different types of light. Tungsten bulbs offer a reddish colour whereas halogen bulbs are cooler and bluer. Think of the story, the mood you’re looking to tell, to create in your photo, and choose the right sort of lighting that will help you portray it. Utilizing available light like candles, twinkle lights, and flashlights can help for creativity, too. 

 Artificial Light


Hard light produces well-defined shadows, which can cause complex scenes to appear chaotic or confusing. A softer light helps to show objects with less shadow definition, making it easier to read the image.

Shadow is used to create dramatic images and give photos a feel of mystery and darkness. Strong shadows add depth to the composition of your photos and draw your viewer’s into the scene. When shadow mingles with other elements of photos (like lighting or reflection) it makes things intriguing and full of contrast. 

A good composition in any artwork - photography or painting - is using some principles of light and shade.

The artist is playing between dark and light, creating "shadows" in black and white or using a colour scheme to create a more dramatic piece, a strong contrast and invite the viewer inside the piece.

 Contrast Shadow


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