4 Unique Ways To Use Shadow To Photograph Your Kids


Often times when we think about indoor portrait photography, we think about how to use light. We’re taught to find evenly lit areas and avoid patchy light, which can be unflattering. Like many photographers, I have sought out this soft, even light for the majority of my portrait work, avoiding the harsh and direct light which cause such contrast.

But, what if this ideal light isn’t readily available, especially around the house? Does it mean we call it defeat or wait till the weather cooperates and shoot only outdoors?

This post is not so much about light as it is about embracing shadow in portrait photography, using it artistically and finding it readily available around your house, no longer avoiding shooting indoors like the plague!



The use of blinds is fast becoming one of my favorite ways to incorporate patterned shadow in my shots. The direction and regularity of the shadows cast over a face or body make a really strong impression; the brighter the sunlight, the higher the contrast. Large slat blinds give you more control over how much light you allow through and in really bright conditions, the blinds can be almost fully shut.

light and shadow in portrait photography-7.jpgISO 400   f/2.0   1/200sec

Make use of some good quality editing software such as Lightroom to emphasize the contrasting lines, using the clarity or contrast tool to sweep over these lines.

light and shadow in portrait photography-6.jpgISO 400   f/2.0   1/200sec



Due to the more delicate structure of a bamboo blind, the shadows are dispersed closer together creating a web-like effect. Try opening up your aperture wide and focus on the eyes using your manual AF selection. The eyes will be emphasized as the background melts away.

light and shadow in portrait photography-3.jpgISO 100   f/1.8   1/100sec  (featured #ourlightwithin)


By placing your subject infront of shadows cast on a wall or background from the blinds, your subject will stand out. As well as the position of the leading lines draws the eye in towards the subject’s face.

light and shadow in portrait photography-1-10ISO 100   f/1.8   1/100sec


At the end of the day when the sun creeps around the front of our house, it causes rainbows as the light enters through the upper glass panel. My boys were geeking out over prisms and the science behind it, whereas I just thought it looked pretty :-)

Using light and shadow in photography-1ISO 100   f/1.8   1/100sec  (featured #theartofchildhood)

light and shadow in portrait photography-2ISO 100   f/1.8   1/100sec

Whether you’re creating a moody portrait like above, or documenting real life, the pop of color and the way it falls over the contour of the skin can produce both a bold, dramatic scene or a hazy, dream-like effect.

light and shadow in portrait photography-5.jpgISO 100   f/1.8   1/250sec

light and shadow in portrait photography-4.jpgISO 100   f/1.8   1/250sec


Pools of light flooding in through a window or door will undoubtedly put into shadow anything that blocks its path. Shadow in this respect will highlight the areas that are in light, putting more emphasis on your subject. Think about using the shadows to frame the image. Not only will it look intentional but it can add to the overall composition of an image.

Using light and shadow in photography-1ISO 400   f/2.0  1/160sec


We have a maple tree outside one of the windows which causes a dappled effect. This was a perfect example of how the ideal light wasn’t available but the moment was unmissable as I captured Mattheus’ first steps (and trying again after the fall!) Direct (though evening) sunlight on his upper body and patchy light on the lower half, a strong shadow cast on the back of the sofa; you’d think it would be a recipe for a disaster, but despite a slight focus issue, I adore this candid and highly imperfect shot!

light and shadow in portrait photography-10ISO 800   f/2.0   1/100sec


These ideas are just a beginning of how to make the best use of shadow around your home. Be intentional and thoughtful about light and shadow in your photography!

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