Allow Your Shadow in Your Photo Sometimes (Day 30 of 31)
Sometimes your shadow ends up in a photo by accident, but other times it’s not a mistake. Lee Friedlander was one of the first widely known photographers to make use of his shadow as a photographic element, and many people have done it since.
Why would you have your shadow in a photo? That’s one of the marks of a rank amateur, right up there with having your thumb over the lens.
Well, your shadow poking into the frame can convey a few different things. For one, it reinforces the truth that a photograph is not reality. No matter how much we’re capturing the truth of one moment, it’s still only a single moment, and it’s subject to the photographer’s point of view, conscious and unconscious biases, and frame of reference. So the photographer’s shadow in the picture operates at a very meta level, reminding the viewer that a human being held the camera.
A shadow can function as a graphic element, directing the viewer’s attention like a pointer or signpost toward something you want to emphasize in the frame. It can be used to add balance or resonance to your composition.
A third reason for letting your shadow be part of the picture is that sometimes there’s no way around it, if you want a particular shot. At certain times of day, in certain places, the only way you can include all the information you want in a photo is by letting that other piece of information—this is where the photographer was—be a part of it, as well.
And, fourth, it can add a touch of lightness or humour to your shot. A photo that’s not particularly witty or irreverent can take on those characteristics when you let your shadow fall into the frame.
As with many of our photographic efforts, what may initially seem like an egregious mistake may end up being something you like a lot. If you’ve never fooled around with including shadows in the photos you take, it’s a fun thing to experiment with.
(For the month of October 2017, I’m participating in the 31 Days bloggers’ challenge. You can find out about it here, and check out the interesting work other bloggers are posting.)