Why you should Photograph Shadow, Not light!

It took me 20 years to find this because no one taught it until now.

In this primer on shadow hacking I’m going to share was I found. If you follow my work you have seen me shift focus to shadow over light. Not to say ignore light, but that there so much focusing on the light has only caused us to learn half of what makes great photos.

Not signed up for my Shadow-Hackers LIVE class? Sign up it here.

Should you lift or drop shadows? Push or pull exposure. How do we bend the shadow in new ways and why doe sit matter. Today I’ll show you some examples and if you attend my Shadow Hackers hackers class you’ll be ahead of the curve for watching this.

Look for where your shadows are broken and stop photographing light.

I hope this is coming across. I promise that if you start looking to photograph shadow, it’s going to change how you use to light your camera and what kind of results you get. Try this and see for yourself.

Gavin Seim

Things I used to edit with today…
My new Elegance Speed Masks… seimeffects.com/elegance
Filmist, get my free presets… seimeffects.com/filmist/
Lumist actions… seimeffects.com/lumist
BlackRoom actions… seimeffects.com/blackroom
Natural HDR4… seimeffects.com/dynamic

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  1. Film is historically lacking in catching shadow detail. This is part of the history of these photographs. I'm sure that the artists would have loved more detail on the dark characters.

    1. That’s not correct. Film has immense shadow detail and usually has more dynamic range than digital. They used shadow because it’s essential to great photography. Just like the painters used it.

  2. GREAT video!

    In addition to your wonderful examples, for me, the best example (of your message) is the work of Italian painter Caravaggio. While he is known for his tremendous use of light, that approach would not have been possible if he had not made such good use of the shadows in every image.

    Like you said, we tend to think about light – but really, it's the shadows that ground an image and give it impact. Just like the work of Caravaggio. Here is a link to all his works: https://www.caravaggio-foundation.org/

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About the Author

Glad you're here.

I'm from WA State USA and started studying photography in 97. I started work as a pro (using that word loosely because I sucked) using film at age 16. I learned fast but was not as easy to find training then. Sometimes I beat my head against the wall until I figured stuff out.

As digital dawned I went all in and got to study with masters like Ken Whitmire. In 09 I founded the Pro Photo Show podcast. I started promoting tone-focused editing. When Lightroom arrived, I started developing tools to make editing and workflow better.

20 years of study and photography around the country earned me a Master of Photography (M.Photog) from PPA. I got to see my workshops and tools featured in publications across the industry. Once I even won the prestigious HotOne award for my "EXposed" light and tone workshop.

Wanting something calmer, I moved to Mexico in 2017. It's a land of magical light. I'm here now exploring light and trying to master my weak areas. I make videos of that for my Youtube channel, sharing what I learn. I hope you'll stick around and be part of Light Hunters Tribe... Gavin

Gavin Seim

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