digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

Get Inspired · Find Creativity · Seek Adventure

24 Dramatic Shadowy Images to Help You See Light

A while ago I wrote an article about: 5 Tips for Using Shadows to Create Dramatic Images. So I thought I'd find and share some images that exemplify how to use them.


Just as a quick review, in order to see light you must learn to see shadows. Images devoid of them often feel flat and two dimensional, versus ones with strong shadows and dark tones that have depth, contrast, and a 3D quality. You feel like you can step right into the scene it feels so rich and real.

Let's see how these photographers used shadows to make dramatic images. Look at each and see if you can tell:

  • What direction the light is coming from?
  • The time of day it was shot; morning, midday, late in the evening?
  • Is it hard or soft light?
  • Does the lighting add to the mood of the image, if so, how?
  • Do the shadows enhance the texture of the subject?

Use this as a learning exercise to practice reviewing images, and pick up tips from good ones that you can apply in your own photography.

Begin and enjoy

Skating by Svein Nordrum on

Le Grand Agnelin by Xavier Jamonet on

Mt Nanaedake by Kengo Shibutani on

Ballad of Gales by Alex Noriega on

The Tate Modern by David Southern on

Old Man by Dane Alex  on

Soulful by Lisa Holloway on

FEEL by Thierry NGUYEN on

**BW** by Joachim Bergauer on

Fluff cloud by Takashi  on

Attention Grabber by Max Rive on

The Flaming Sisters by Raza Durrani on

Rise by Minh Nguyen on

CIGAR AT SUNSET by Chris Evans on

My Favourite Lady by Vichaya Pop on

Horned Viper by Rilind H on

Old Lanterns. Japan by PAkDocK @PAkDocK on

Kolmanskop beauty by Michael Dessagne on

The sense of abandonment by Ciro Santopietro on

Darkness by sandra160173 on

LoaD IN # by Guillaume Rio on

Facing the Giant by Morkel Erasmus on

"Grand Monsoon" by Mark Metternich on

Claustral Canyon by Lee Duguid on

Note: in the process of finding these images I've added two new things to my bucket list. The abandoned villages of Kolmanskop in Namibia, and Belchite in Spain. What's on your bucket list, are they photography related?


You are here: Beginner Photography » 24 Dramatic Shadowy Images to Help You See Light

lightroom alternative photo editing software

  • Betty Manousos

    hi darlene,

    great post as usual. thanks! the first image of yours is a great example for sure. i know it was shot midday. as for the other images: they all are terrific but i can’t tell. as in post-processing you can do anything! however, i have to say that “correct” lighting/shadows add to the mood of the picture a lot, making the image stand out.

    thank you for all the hard work putting this together.

    the best

    • Thanks Betty. Yes you can do a lot in processing but you can’t change the direction of light or where the shadows fall.

  • Lyn Collins

    Hi Darlene
    Thanks for the info and beautiful images. I have been guilty of overusing the shadow slider in Lightroom to reduce shadows and see more detail – not always the way to go!

  • Pieter Louw

    Kolmanskop will serve to be your starting point – there are so much, much more in that region!

  • Eugene Shuler

    In most cases it’s easy to determine from which direction the light source is coming. Some of the photos I can tell the position of the sun due to the cast of the shadows. Then there are a few I can see the whether it’s morning, noon, or evening based on morning mist or dusk of evening. They all seem to enhance the subject by contrasting the features of the subject, be it object or person. There is, however, a lot for me to learn about shadows in photography. I can’t wait for future articles. Thank you for bringing this important subject to our attention.

  • crystal bloom

    Hi Darlene, I love your articles, I read most of them a few times and I’ve been trying to apply the concepts to my photos. It seems that I have a hard time with shadows, to say the least, however I did capture one today I think may almost be a good one LOL I didn’t do a lot of post processing on this just some minor adjustments. I do really like it, not only because of the shadow but it tells a story

    • hi Chrystal – well that is a strong shadow yes. But you want to put his little face in the light usually, not other way around. Shadows enhance the image and send you looking at the areas with the brightest tones – in this case his neck. So where they fall is very important.

      Did you read the article I linked to above? That may help some.

      • crystal bloom

        Thanks for the input, I did read the article. I think my problem is I see things backwards lol, back to the drawing board, I’ll just keep on shooting till I get right

        • Just remember to LIGHT the thing you want people to look at, and SHADE the rest. Does that help?

          • crystal bloom

            Yes that is very helpful!

  • James Cook

    Hi Darlene,

    This article, along with your previous one about shadows served me with great inspiration. Yesterday I shot these self portraits with your writing in mind.

    Cheers, James

  • Mika Dessagne

    Hi Darlene !
    Thanks for sharing one of my pictures (the one from Kolmanskop in Namibia). It’s an honor ! I’ve been reading your posts on another site for a while !
    Kolmanskop is amazing and you can spend hours looking at each room changing in the morning light ! You should definitely go there !
    I posted many other pictures from this place on 500px :
    And I explain a lot about this place in one of my blog’s article (sorry its’ in French) :

    Thanks again !
    Mika Dessagne

Next Post:

Previous Post:

Featured Photography Special

4 Weeks to Better Photography

An online
photography class for beginners

Join the Photo Community

10 Photography Challenges

Participate in monthly photography challenges. Join our very interactive community, participate in challenges each month that help you stretch and grow. Learn new skills and make your photos "pop".

More Articles Here

All my past photography articles here.

We publish regularly, so if you'd like to posts sent directly to your inbox, just put your name and email into the big orange box at the top of this page.

Adobe Training

Learn how to use Lightroom
Learn how to use Photoshop