Camera & Accessories Search

Monday, March 30, 2009

Digital Photography Lessons - Are Shadows Ruining Your Photos?

By Dan Eitreim

Shadows can and frequently do ruin otherwise good photographs.

The downside is that photography is all about light and where there is light, there are shadows. The upside is, there are some pretty basic and easy to do fixes.

To start, what is causing the shadow? That's easy, it's when light is hitting your photo subject and not hitting the backdrop behind them.

The first "fix" if you're having a problem with distracting, ugly shadows on your backdrop...remove the backdrop. If there is nothing behind your model, there is nothing for the shadow to fall on, therefor there's no visible shadow.

So, start out by removing the background if you can.

If you're shooting outdoors, position your subject so that there is nothing behind them! Easy enough.

If your photo session is being done indoors, you obviously can't take down or remove the walls, so move your model into the center of the room. They'll be posing far enough away from the walls so that the shadows will magically disappear. Usually makes for a more unique and better shot too!

Another way to approach the problem is to add another light source that is hitting the backdrop.

If you're lighting your subject with "studio" type lights; get your model lit the way you want and then add another light that bypasses the model and lights up the background.

The extra - unadvertised - bonus with this method is that you can add colored gels, cookies and scrims to modify the light. They throw unique shapes, patterns and colors onto your backing. This way it becomes a design element in your photo and not simply a shadow removal tool.

The way to think of light and shadow is this...light is like a billiards ball. When you roll a billiards ball into a cushion, the ball will bounce off. The key is, it will bounce off at the same angle it struck to cushion. (Remember this the next time you are trying to eliminate glare from eyeglasses.)

The shadow on the other hand, is ALWAYS directly in line with the light. So, you can minimize the shadow problem by changing the angle of the lights so that the shadow falls into an area that won't show in the final photo.

Indoors, with a studio light setup, just move the lights around until you find the optimal angle. Outside, you have to move your model around until the light is coming from the right direction. Reflectors can help too! you can change the angle of light when using an on camera flash by bouncing it off a wall or the ceiling. Just be sure the wall or ceiling are not painted a color that will throw an odd color cast on your model.

The final intensity and harshness of a shadow is determined by the size and strength of the light source, relative to the subject.

If you lower the intensity of the light, that will also lower the intensity of the associated shadow. It will still be there, but you may be able to minimize its' distracting effect.

Moving the light further from the model or reducing the lights' power are two simple ways to lower the intensity of light hitting your subject.

Another option is to increase the size of a light relative to the model. This makes the light wrap around them and minimizes the shadow. You can make a light bigger with umbrellas, reflectors and softboxes.

These modifiers can be thought of as being like a cloud. A cloud that moves between your model and the sun is nothing more than a giant diffuser. It makes the entire cloud a light source (bigger) instead of just the sun (smaller). This wraps the light around your model minimizing shadow intensity. Go outside and check out the difference in shadows when the light is coming from the sun and from a cloud. You'll notice some astounding differences.

Light, diffusion and shadows are the subjects of many books. This article is only a beginning. go to the library and read a few books on the subject, you'll be glad you did.

Happy shooting.

About the Author:

No comments: