Natural Looking Shadows and How to Create Them in Seconds

by Emily on August 11, 2019

in Photo Tips, Tricks & Techniques

Creating a good, believable, natural shadow in Photoshop can be a tricky process. While shadows serve to add dimension to your photography, doing them wrong can destroy your whole work.

In product photography, for example, you have two types of shadows:

  •       Cast shadows
  •       Form shadows

Cast shadows are those around the product, appearing on the floor and the items around it. Form shadows appear within the product. They can tell you more about which colors to use in the cast shadows, and which direction to place the cast shadows in.

Since creating cast shadows in Photoshop is a more difficult process, let’s focus on how you can ensure they appear realistic and natural.

How to Create Natural-Looking Shadows?

If you want your result to look good, you have to dedicate a lot of time and effort into creating natural shadows. As a photographer, the best thing you can do is team up with Smart Photo Editors who offer natural shadow services.

The entire process can be time-consuming, and you have to be careful every step of the way. Let’s take a look.

Step 1

First thing’s first. You’ll have to import the image of the object into a blank Photoshop document. It would be ideal if you’d taken the photograph of the product against a white background.

You’ll need to carefully cut out the shape of the product from your original photo, then place it in the Photoshop document. First, add a white background layer, then add a layer where you’ll place your product image.

Step 2

The next step is adding just the basic shadow. This can be done rather easily. In the layer with your object image, go to the layer menu, and click on the fx tab. This is located at the bottom right of your screen, so you can’t miss it.

Toward the bottom of the fx menu bar, you’ll see the option to create a drop shadow. Selecting this will automatically create a drop shadow for you.

Step 3

Once the drop shadow has been created, you’ll be good to go. You can manipulate the shadow any way you like.

The default shadow color is black. You can leave it be, and change the opacity, its angle, size, and even distance.

It would be better, however, to study the form shadow of your object before you do any of this. The shadows that are already on the product will primarily show you the natural direction of the shadow. Use this information to ensure that the shadow you’re creating matches.

The formed shadow will also tell you about the colors you should be using. While we mostly think of shadows as black or grey, they tend to have some other colors to them. You can (and should) match the color of the cast shadow to that of the form shadow.

Step 4

Now is the time for you to move the drop shadow to a new layer. This allows you to manipulate the shadow separately from the actual object.

You will see an fx symbol in your layer tab. When you right-click on it, a new menu bar will pop up. To decouple the drop shadow, you will need to find and select the option to create layers. In the menu bar, the option to create layers will be third from the bottom, so select this.

Step 5

At this point, you should change the direction of the shadow. Going by the information from the form shadow, you should know where the cast shadow should be.

To change the direction, go to the menu located at the top of your screen, select Edit > Transform > Skew. The top two anchor points allow you to drag the shadow out and place it at the desired degree. 

Step 6

If your shadow is too long, now is the time to adjust its length. This time, you should go to Edit > Transform > Scale. Moving the top two anchor points up or down now allows you to change the length of the shadow.

The length of the shadow primarily depends on the light source and its location. Shadows will be shorter is the light is above the object, and longer if it’s lower and to the side.

Step 7

Lastly, changing the opacity of the shadow, its color, and its position has moved it away from the object. So, you should ensure that the drop shadow is still connected to the base of your object. 

Go to Edit > Transform > Warp. The anchor points that appear allow you to place the shadow in the correct position and sure that it’s in contact with your object.

Different Software to Create Natural-Looking Shadows

There are many different software solutions that allow you to create natural-looking shadows. There are, however, 2 top solutions that most smart photo editors choose if they’re offering natural shadow services.

Software 1

The first one is Pixels. It’s by far one of the most popular image editing services out there. It offers image editing services to anyone, from online retailers to website developers, bloggers, and photographers.

Pixels is primarily designed for product photography and can help you enhance your photos and make them more appealing.

Software 2

Of course, nothing can match Adobe Photoshop. It’s an extremely powerful tool for image and photo editing. Essentially, anything you can imagine, you can create with Adobe. It has plenty of top-notch features and creating natural shadows with this software solution will be a breeze.

Keep in mind that there’s a learning curve when you first start using Adobe Photoshop. But once you’ve learned the ropes, there’s nothing you can’t do.

Conclusion

Creating natural-looking shadows for your product photography, or even portraits can bring a new dimension to your photos. You can enhance their appeal, add more depth to them, and create a natural contrast that draws attention.

Partnering up with a smart photo editors team can take the load off your shoulders and provide you with excellent results. 

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