The direction of the flash is very important, as are the power settings, to reduce unwanted shadows in your photographs. There is no exact recipe. Anticipation will be your best friend if you want to achieve fast results, but the ability to anticipate the light the flash will cast on the subject can only be achieved with tons of practice.
Digital sensors have evolved impressively over the years, and they will evolve even more. Nowadays they allow us to easily gain 3 stops of light, and in some cases up to 5.
Digital photography works the opposite to analog photography when it comes to exposure. With film, underexposure allows photographers to recover shadows and dark tones without messing too much with the lighter areas and highlights.
With digital, overexposing allows us to recover highlights and lights in post-production without getting odd results in darker areas of the image. This is because sensors capture more information in what corresponds to the right side of the histogram – hence the overexposure method.
Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash
Do a test, and overexpose an image by one stop. You will be able to recover the blown-out zones easily because even when they are excessively lit, they contain a decent amount of information, and you will also retain detail in the shadows because they will be filled with light, too.
Shadows In RAW
Always shoot in RAW. It doesn't matter if you end up with massive files; RAW ensures that you shoot less, but get better shots, just like when you shoot with film. By working with a RAW file, you'll have all the information your camera can give to you – and after all, you paid for that powerful device.
So get the best out of it! Lights, highlights, exposure, and brightness are values you can tweak in RAW development, and you can also enhance shadows, darks, and blacks.
Photo by Matthew Ansley on Unsplash
By increasing the value of those specific settings, you will gently lighten things up and reduce the harsh nature that some shadows can create. Again, there is no exact recipe for this, so all images must be treated uniquely according to your own taste.
Many types of RAW development software have built-in local adjustment capabilities. They allow you to tweak precise zones in an image (which are usually masked by the person developing the image with a brush) separately from the overall image.
This requires some patience, but the results are worth it. By selecting a specific shadow, you can work things out almost as if you had a dedicated flash targeting that particular shadowy spot in the scene.
Some people use graphic tablets instead of traditional mice or trackpads, which takes the post-production experience to a completely different level.
Planning Images With Light Schemes
Leaving a bit of room for improvisation will result in better images, and the best way to do this is by planning your photographs, especially during photo shoots. Street photography is harder to plan, but anticipating the lighting will help you avoid ugly shadows in any scene.
One habit I always recommend to photographers is to work with light schemes. Working with a planning mindset beats any of the previous solutions mentioned above. You can use basic and traditional stuff like paper and pen, or the free tool available at
Lighting Diagrams. There, you can create your own diagrams and browse among examples that many photographers have uploaded for free.
Shadows can become an important element of anyone’s photographic style – therefore, they should be treated with care, just like light. Shadows can be responsible for the drama in your images and shouldn’t be completely eliminated, but shaped into what we really want to show in our photographs.
Here Are Some Great Tips If You Are Interested In More On Light
Bite Size Tips: Understand These Concepts of Light for Better Photographs – see Dalia's tips on some basic lighting concepts
15 Stunning Photos That Will Make You Appreciate The Visual Appeal of Shadows in Photography – for inspiration see these beautiful photos posted by Ritesh
Understanding Light – head on over to Photzy for this great guide to Understanding Light