Adding Depth to Photos
Adding depth to photos can be accomplished both in-camera and also in post. As in all 2-dimensional art, working with light and shadow creates proper depth in your photographs.
In photography, there are several ways of accomplishing this…
Learning to shoot in manual mode is an important part of adding depth to your photographs. In manual mode, you be able to better manipulate the relationship between light and shadow, adding more dimension to an otherwise 2-dimensional image.
“Shoot for the Light” is often my motto for properly exposing a photograph. Below is the above image SOOC before any editing or enhancement. I was exposing for the baby’s face in the light from a window, while allowing the rest of the frame to gradually fade into the shadows.
One of the most basic edits I will do in post is to add contrast to my images. (Contrast is merely the relationship between light and shadow.) This is a quick and easy way to enhance dimension with immediate results. Contrast can truly make your images “pop”. It’s important not to go overboard though. I will usually bump the contrast up by 3-5 pixels. Adding anymore can actually flatten your images by removing the gradual fade from light to shadow.
Believe it or not, warm and cool colors have a lot to do with light and shadow as well as with adding depth to photos. Cooler colors recede and indicate shadow, while warmer colors signify light and bring your subject forward.
Learning to edit in layers is a huge step in adding depth to photos. Overlays and many actions that enhance images can actually flatten your photographs by taking away from the varying warm and cool colors of light and shadow, washing over the whole image with either one color tone or the other.
Light and Shadow
Finally, let’s talk about light and shadow. Even if you haven’t taken any art classes before, I’m sure you’ve seen examples of flat, 2-dimensional circles and triangles that are “magically” transformed, as it were, into spheres and cones through shading.
In post, I make it my objective to enhance and draw particular attention to the light in relationship to the shadows. Below, I have a before and after example. Pay special attention to the in-camera exposure as well as the contrast, and the warm and cool colors that show up in the edit.
To sum up, depth is primarily added through light and shadow, and there are multiple ways to work with it. (Next week I will be devoting an entire blog post to Light and Shadow.) Experiment with the techniques mentioned in this post. As you grow in your understanding of light and shadow, you will see how your images will also grow in dimension and interest!
Sonya Adcock is a fine art photographer based in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania. She specializes in artistic child photography. Sonya’s artwork has been featured in Photography Monthly Magazine, Bella Grace Magazine, and Redbook Magazine. In the hectic pace of a digital era, her artwork encourages you to slow down and remember the joys and magic of childhood.
For the photographer, Sonya will be releasing photo editing tutorials, actions, and overlays. Please join our Mailing List to be notified of future release dates. Or you can subscribe to her weekly Blog for tips on photography and art.
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