Contrasts – Shadow vs Light

Contrasts are one of my favorite themes to look for when making images. There are many to consider – old/new, warm/cool, smooth/rough, and today we’ll discuss shadow/light.

Subtle Variations

It can be subtle and can take a very straightforward image that might be dull in flat lighting conditions more interesting. In this shot, I’ve centered the corner of the Aon building within the frame. What makes it more compelling is the back-and-forth between shadow and light on the various lines of the building.

Breaking Symmetry

A very similar building but this time the Bank of America Building in Los Angeles. I’ve again centered the corner of the building but the shadow of the neighboring building (and the trees) breaks that symmetry.

Incorporating Nature

Speaking of trees, here’s an example of the shadows of trees (or pick anything organic) adding depth and layers to a bright white wall. Another part of the wall is also casting a shadow on the wall we actually see in the frame.

An Element of Mystery

Continuing the theme of elements not in the frame making the shadows and leaving an element of mystery to the shot.

You don’t have to be obvious about where the shadows are coming from, meaning including it in the frame. The patterns and the area you are showing can hint at what is creating the shadows. In the B&W image, the handrail. In the color image, the beams of the skylight.

Light & Silhouette

Or you can compose the shot so part of the structure is in light and the other part is in shade. Just be aware that the viewer will always see the brightest area of an image first. Be sure this is what you want the main focus to be on. Here, it’s the texture and patterns of the highlighted area. However, the part of the building in the shade also has interesting shapes that work well in silhouette or the slight hint of light hitting those areas.

These are a few ways to think about utilizing the light vs shadow contrast within a single frame. Let me know if you come up with any others.

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