How to Take Pictures in Shadow

Frustrated by tricky shadows and softer light? These steps make shooting in the shade a breeze.


Up next in Photography Tips & Techniques (41 videos)

Capture your subject in the best light with these photography tips that cover everything from nature and still-life photography to fashion photography.

You Will Need

  • A camera
  • Subject in the shade or shadow
  • A tripod


  1. Step 1

    Pick a subject

    Identify a subject.

  2. Step 2

    Pick up camera and set to lowest ISO

    Pick up your camera and for digital camera users, select the lowest possible ISO for the current lighting conditions.

  3. Long exposures and high ISO tend to have more noise or digital grain than shorter exposures and lower ISO’s. Select the lowest ISO and fastest shutter speed possible to minimize the effects and get a better quality image.

  4. Step 3

    Steady your camera

    Steady your camera by propping your camera on a sturdy object, or by using a tripod, to reduce any unwanted camera shake.

  5. Step 4

    Compose your shot

    Compose your shot.

  6. Compose your subject by using the rule of thirds, where your subject is either in the left or right third, not the direct middle, for the most interesting pictures.

  7. Step 5

    Focus on subject

    Focus on the subject.

  8. Auto focus systems have a difficult time focusing in low light or backlit situations, so either focus on another object at a similar distance, or set your camera to manual focus.

  9. Step 6

    Take a light reading

    Take a light reading by metering the subject.

  10. Step 7

    Set camera mode to “spot” for correct exposure

    Set your camera’s metering mode to 'spot' or 'center weighted' in order to get the correct exposure of the main subject.

  11. If your camera does not support a custom metering function, try overexposing the image by 1/2 to 2 stops depending on the intensity of backlighting.

  12. Step 8

    Select shutter speed and aperture

    Select your shutter speed and aperture, based on your readings.

  13. Step 9

    Shoot pictures

    Shoot until you run out of disk space, film or your subject’s patience.

  14. Step 10

    Shoot variations in stops

    With each pose, bracket 1- to 2 stops in either direction to ensure you nailed the correct exposure of your main subject.

  15. Film-noir cinematographer John Alton famously said, 'I could see more in the dark than I could in color.'