Shading Scheme for Black and White Architecture Fine Art Photography

Shading is a common word used actually in drawing, rather than photography. But since, there are not much of a difference between drawing and photography, in term of the result. I recommend you actually learn this. This is especially important in black and white architecture fine art photography. In this article, we will talk about how to create a shading scheme for black and white architecture fine art photography.

What is Shading

Let’s put it simply, shading is a technique to create a 3-dimensional appearance on a 2 dimension visual image (like picture or photo). This is done by darkening a specific part of an object, and/or lbrightening other parts of the photo. Creating an impression of shadows on the object. Thus, making an object on a drawing appear 3d.

Try drawing a circle. Of course we will think its a circle, a 2d form. But if we darken a bit lower left part of the inner circle, we could make it appear like a ball instead, a 3d form. Since I’m suck in drawing, I’m not gonna try.

It is an important technique if you into drawing or graphic design. But actually not really for photography. Since photography is capturing the scene to its truest, the shading will actually appear naturally on the image. But for black and white architecture fine art photography, shading is an important thing to be emphasized onto the image. Take a look at these photos below and you can understand why it is important.

In this article, we won’t learn about shading technique (capturing nor post-processing), since it’s the easy thing. Instead, we will learn the hard thing, about how to properly plan a great shading onto the image so it appears great and realistic.

Shading Scheme

Shading scheme is actually a term I made out myself. So it wouldn’t be surprise if you have no idea what it is.

Shading scheme is a systematic plan for create the appearance of lights and shadows into an object or more in a photo. This is done by darkening and/or brightening a certain part of an object on a photo with post-processing technique (like dodge and burn), so the object appear more 3 dimensional.

Of course, we can’t just randomly applied lights or shadows randomly. Which will make the photo appear weird, and unnatural, or the worse, destructive. That is why we need to create a plan before actually doing so. Imagine shading scheme like a blueprint. Instead of for creating building, the scheme is for creating shading.

How to Create a Shading Scheme for Black and White Architecture Fine Art Photography

For this will use Photoshop. Basically, we will just create a rough drawing on the photo while imagining how the object appears on the photo.

To create a realistic shading, all we need to do is to answer this question:

Which part of the object should the shadows and lights to be appear?

The answer is actually simple:

Just follow the lights.

Learn how natural lights naturally work and it will just easy peasy

1. Where’s the Lights come from?

To do this, just take a look at your photo and look at the brightest part of your photo. Use post-processing software (Lightroom or Photoshop) to do it easier. Normally it will be on the top part of the photo, depending on the sun’s position at the time.

(1) Since the upper right side of the photo (indicated with the red circle) appear to be the brightest part of the photo. It means, the sun is on that side of the photo and the lights spread from that side of the position.

If you can’t figure it out. Another way is to just make it up. For example, I can just increase the brightness of the upper right side of the photo in post-processing, to make it the brightest part of the photo. Thus, make it appear like the sun is on the upper right side of the photo.

2. How is the Light affecting the object?

The main point of knowing where’s the sun and where’s the lights directed to is to know how the lights will affecting the photo. To know this, just follow these points.

1. The nearest part of the object from the lights is the brightest.

2. The farthest part of the object from the lights is the darkest.

Take a look at the photo below.

Focus on the OBJECT (Buildings).
The RED color indicating the part of the object (Right) that should be brightened.
The BLUE color indicating the part of the object (Front) that should be darkened.

Based on the position of the building from the camera, let’s call the RIGHT side as the part of the object that directly facing the lights and the FRONT side as the part of the object that isn’t directly facing the lights.

If we see the photo, we can see that the RIGHT should be the brightest since its the nearest part of the object to the lights come from. It’s especially more so, since the RIGHT also facing the lights directly.

The FRONT is the farther part of the object from the lights. Thus, it should be appear more darker. Even more so since it doesn’t directly facing the lights.

Basically that’s it. Answer those questions above and you can do it easily. Of course how do you exactly create shading is different matter. Let’s check out how the finish result of the photo in black and white architecture fine art photography.

In addition, I recommend the following:

1. Remember to determine the bright and dark part of the photo for each object or building in the photo.

Sometime there are more than 1 objects in the photo. Thus, we should treat each object individually by creating shading scheme for each object.

2. Pay attention to each edge of the object.

Most buildings has edges that make it appear cubical, like the object on the photo above. If so you should make a clear contrast between the dark part of the building and the bright part of the building. Just like the photo above where the RIGHT is bright and the FRONT is clearly dark.

But sometime there are building that has no edges, or at least doesn’t appear on the photo. Instead of edge, it show curve. Contrasting the dark and bright of each part of the building will be bad. So instead, make it gradually. Start by the brightest on the part nearest to the lights from, then gradually darken and darken it the farther the part of the building is.

Let’s try another photo.

Leave a Reply