Boat Mast in Shadows

Most of the time the subject of the a photo is easy to see – whether it’s a portrait, landscape, travel, or architecture. While these subjects are easy to identify, the use of shadows in these topics is not discussed as often as it should be.  We spend so much time trying to get the lit portion of our images in focus, composed to our satisfaction, making sure things are sharp, and all the rest, we sometimes miss the value of shadows in our imagery.

Boat Mast in Shadows

The shadows of an image can be just as important to the composition as the lit parts are.  When talking about how to light images with strobes and studio lights, the use of shadows to give definition is often discussed, but the same discussions can be germane to naturally lit photos too.  Remember, the word photography means to paint with light (photo and graphos), so even the absence of light can be significant in defining our images.

Subtle Portrait Shadows

Whether you shoot portraiture, architecture, landscapes, or even abstracts, shadows can and do play a role in how you compose your images.  Do you look at the shadows in your images?  What story do shadows tell in your work?

Abstract Shadows

Shadowed Helicopter

Five Elements of Control: #5 Composition


You knew it had to come back to composition, right?  I know, everyone is screaming by now “But Jason, you’ve talked about the Rule of Thirds until the cows literally came home!”  Truth be told though, most people think about composition positioning with their subject matter.  It’s true that subjects are ideally placed on a hot spot or along one of the grid lines in the ROT grid. But you can break the rules too, ya know!  I say, put anything you want on a grid spot.  Or don’t have a specific point of interest!  Make the subject of your photo the space! Negative space, as previously mentioned, can be a powerful thing! Read more

Five Elements of Control: #4 Context

Alcohol Plumbing

Have you ever seen something that looks so out of place that it catches your eye?  Well catch it with your lens too, because contextual positioning of subjects in interesting or unusual/unexpected areas creates visual interest.  This is what I refer to as controlling the context of your subject.  So many times I’ve heard people tell me “but how can I change the surroundings?”  The answer lies not in changing the surroundings of subjects you want to shoot, butin reversing that idea:  find unusual subjects in your given surroundings.  Say you are on a photo walk and in a city area.  Well, try and find subject matter that contradicts the sense of city. Read more