Mini Photography Lesson + Assignment: Not All Shade is Created Equal

As photographers, we often look for shaded areas to place our subjects in. The light is even, we don’t have to deal with harsh shadows, and no one is squinting their eyes. However, not all shady areas are created equal. Some areas will be better than others and looking for them will improve your photography. Although sometimes you can’t help the location where you’re shooting, instead of arbitrarily looking for a shaded area to photograph, see how light reflects back onto your subject.

Using Walls As Reflectors

A few of my favorite areas to photograph are alleyways or in between buildings. Usually one side of the wall is lit by sunlight. This light bounces off into the shaded area directly across and essentially becomes a huge softbox.

The photograph below was taken in the men’s bathroom at a local park. While walking around before my client arrived, I noticed the white bathroom walls and sunlight illuminating one side of the wall and essentially bouncing light around everywhere.

f/2.0 at 1/640

Using Garages/Overhangs/Covered Areas

Look for shaded areas with an area of sunlight in front of your subject. One of my favorite areas to photograph when I’m shooting at the beach is underneath the pier. The pier overhead provides shade and light reflects off the ground and bounces back into the shaded area.

Underneath a pier:

f/2.0 at 1/100

In essence, think about the location where you are photographing. If you have control, try to find locations where light is being bounced onto shaded areas. This will light the face well, light the eyes, and reduce those muddy shadows especially underneath the eyes.


If you would like feedback for your photographs, please e-mail them to Feedback for assignments is open for one week (ends December 7, 2010).

1. Find an area where the sun illuminates a side of a white wall. Place your subject in the shaded area facing the lit wall.


1. Open up your garage door in the afternoon.  Place your subject facing out. You will be shooting into the garage.

2. If you’re photographing one subject, shoot at f/2.0, f/2.8, or the widest aperture your lens will open up to.

3. FOCUS ON THE EYES and shoot.

4. Upload the photographs onto your computer. Is the face well lit? Do you have light in the eyes?

Assignment photograph courtesy of Sweet Moments Photography // Facebook

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