5 Tips How to Capture Compelling Shadows in Street Photography

"Father and Daughter" - Eric Kim
"Father and Daughter" – Eric Kim

Often times as street photographers, we are too focused on capturing what is right before our eyes, rather than looking up and especially down. Capturing shadows is a wonderful way to open up your eyes to things which are around you, and give the viewer a sense of the surreal. If you are interested in understanding how you can better capture compelling shadows in your street photography, read on!

1. Flip your images

"Father and Daughter" - Eric Kim
"Father and Daughter" – Eric Kim – Portrait (original)

Often times when you rotate or flip your images you can make your shots far more interesting. For example, compare the first shot in the top of this blog post and the shot right above. The original shot is pictured above, but doesn’t look nearly as dynamic. However just a 90 degree turn to the right changes the entire perspective and the mood of the image. Now you can see a far more interesting point of view of the father and daughter’s shadow walking together. When you are shooting shadows on the ground, try rotating your images and see which ones look the best.

2. Look for the surreal

"Listen to Me" - Eric Kim
"Listen to Me" – Eric Kim

When you are taking photos of shadows, try to spot images that tell a story that is almost surreal. This means really keeping your eyes open and being able to identify when a person’s shadow may not be necessarily agreeing with the person. For example, take this shot I took in Los Angeles. It appears that the boy is looking down at his shadow, which seems to be ordering the boy to do something else. Find that third dimension, and highlight it.

3. Shoot during the mid-day sun

"Mother and Son" - Eric Kim
"Mother and Son" – Eric Kim

When you are out shooting, find the right time to go out shooting. For example, it seems to be around 3:00PM in Los Angeles when the sun is at the top of the sky, and creates really strong and compelling shadows. If you try to capture shadows any other time of the day, you will often find it is far more difficult as the shadows don’t cast long enough reflections. Experiment what time of the day works best with you, and see the results you can capture.

4. Stay focused

The Scooter Boy

When you are out shooting shadows, shoot only shadows for however long you decide to do so. If you try to go out and shoot everything else, you will lose concentration and focus. Thomas Leuthard often says when you are out shooting street photography, don’t wander aimlessly but have a goal in mind. Keep a certain theme or assignment in mind– and your images will get far better.

5. Frame your shadows

"Cat and Dog" - Eric Kim
"Cat and Dog" – Eric Kim

When you are shooting shadows, pay special attention to how you frame your shadows and keep your eyes open for the intersecting lines and angles you wish to capture. For example in this photo I took above, I made special point to angle my camera in such a way that the shadow of the dog would barely touch the edges of the cage it was in, which creates a far stronger composition.

So how do you capture compelling shadows when you are shooting street photography? Share your own personal tips and tricks in the comments below! :)