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Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark

Updated: Aug 19, 2022

As landscape photographers we want to show off the areas we love with pictures full of details and colour and let the viewer see everything we want them too, but are we showing too much ??

One of the biggest things I see in landscape photography these days is the distinct lack of shadows and darker tones. All too often people have become a little heavy handed with the shadow slider in an attempt to bully out every last bit of detail within the image, even if they couldn't see it while taking the shot.

The end result is a flat image that almost looks HDR in its appearance as there are simply no shadows or dark areas visible anymore.

Now photography is a very subjective thing and while one thing pleases one it will not please another and this blog is in no means a "YOU MUST DO THIS" type of statement, its purely MY opinion of how I see a trend in image processing making a nice picture actually turn into a bit of a howler.

You can of course carry on processing images exactly how you like, but I encourage you to maybe give it a try and keep shadows and darker tones in the image.

It will provide you with a greater level of contrast, more impact to your picture and a far less muddy appearance.

To start with it might seem like an alien approach to your post processing and you might want to fight it, but as you get used to it you will soon accept it as part of the picture, after all nature has shadows doesn't it ?

Having darker areas in your image will also give so much more pop to your highlight areas too allowing them to be bright and vibrant without adding saturation, a far more natural way.

Im not really sure where this obsession has come from in recent times ? It seems that if there is a slider in Photoshop or Lightroom then people simply have to use it, nothing could be further from the case, the less processing the better!.

I'll let you into a little secret here as well, sliders can move to the left to reduce the effect, you don't exclusively have to move them to the right, try it ! ;)

Now I realise that's quite a scathing statement and of course not everyone does only ever move them right but you will be very surprised at just how many do.

So why should you keep shadows in your pictures ? surely these areas of deep black won't add anything to your picture will they ? trust me, they will enhance it more than you can imagine.

Look at some other areas of photography for example street photography, portrait photography, architectural photography, these all make heavy use of shadows to give them striking results and boy does it ever work for them, a landscape is no different and you can really create mood and drama with the inclusion of shadows and dark tonal ranges.

Sometimes its not what you see, it's what you don't that tells the most about the picture and enhances the story you are presenting to the viewer.

Embrace shadows and dark tones into your landscapes and reap the rewards, there is no need to be afraid of the dark.

Only a very short blog this week due to heavy workloads, hopefully there will be a return to the longer ones with Autumn not too far away, a real favourite season for us all.

As always, Happy shooting

Daniel Wretham

St Aldhelms Head
This image was during a super heavy storm just as light broke through. It would have been very easy to lighten up the shadows and reveal more detail but it would have really cost the image in my opinion, instead keeping them enhances the light that was bouncing off areas of St Aldhelms Head

Dorset Landscapes
A really contrasty scene from a morning shoot over some rolling Dorset hills, again the shadow was the main feature with slithers of light around it, removing this would make the impact of the picture far less

Corfe Castle, Dorset
Storm light again produced this result at Corfe Castle, The shadows amplify the light over the castle, taking them out just wouldn't have made the image even worth looking at.

Dorset Bluebells
If anything this image could have done with a tiny bit more shadows & dark tones, the overriding feature was the light on the tree and the punchy bluebells.

The New Forest Landscapes
It would have been so easy to ramp up the show slider to reveal more detail in the tree bark but the image just wouldn't have had the same impact.

Elan Valley
The bridge could have easily had the shadows lifted to give more detail but then the light on the tower would have been totally lost.

Welsh Waterfalls
There was plenty of dark and shadow under the canopy at this Welsh waterfall and just a small amount of light coming through, I wanted to show things as they appeared to the eye rather than enhancing details that in reality I couldn't see

Give yourself to the dark side ;)


Landscape photography blog

Landscape Photography Blog

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