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How to Create Shadows

Lesson 20 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

How to Create Shadows

Lesson 20 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

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Lesson Info

20. How to Create Shadows


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Why Composite ?


Logic Checklist


What Not To Do When Compositing


Shooting for Composite


Changing Backgrounds and Light


Shoot: Simple Swaps Part 1


Lesson Info

How to Create Shadows

I think that shadows air justus important as light I see them as the same exact thing almost so if you're creating light than you were also creating shadow no matter what you dio and like I said before you're not actually creating a shadow necessarily but when you add light your eye perceives the rest of the image to be in more shadow but what if we need to add shadow to an image okay so we've done that by drawing it we've done that by adding vignettes but what if we need to draw a shadow somewhere else so let's say that we're going to make this picture really bright over here maybe we do that through lighting effects so let's go up and find if we already have one there we go okay so now there's a lot more light over here well then what do we know about light we know that it's coming from this side of the image we know that it's hitting her hair it's hitting the back of her we know the front of her is in quite a lot of shadow because of that so we need to think about where would her sh...

adow naturally be pretend that I didn't shoot this on location okay pretend that it was all wrong and we need to fix the shadows in the night to think about adding shadow in front of my subject assuming that the white is coming from behind and to the side of her so I'm gonna go ahead and draw that in and I'm just going to draw a roughly right through here because my thought processes it's coming from behind into the side so it's kind of coming in in front or toward the camera as well as in front of our subject so I've drawn in a shadow doesn't really look like a shadow yet but we're going to get there so now this is where you could do a number of things you could do it where you just create a curves adjustment layer and then use your layer mask to a race you could do it where you try curves and then um feather the selection or you could also just darken the whole thing erase everything but where the shadow needs to be so in this case I'm going to go with my refine edge by right clicking and then I'm going to take the feather slider up that was way too much so we're going to back it off I think thirty something pixel looks kind of good but it depends on how harsh your light is not just where is it coming from but is it a son that's beating down on somebody is it just a glow of light is that a window light and now this is kind of harsh light that we're working with despite the fact that it wasn't to begin with so because of that I'm going to take my feather slider down a little bit more we're going to create a little bit of a harsher shadow here where the edges are super faded but we're getting there so okay I'm going to create my adjustment layer now and now I can start to create a shadow in that area of the image and I think something really subtle works best here I don't think that we need thio create sort of like a massive black spot in the picture but something to keep in mind is are you creating a shadow on highlights mid tones or shadows on top of your image so we happen to be creating a shadow on top of mid tones slash high er slash shadows sort of in between there in that area but if we were to create a shadow over here let's say that I don't know pretend that there's a bird right here that's averred pretend that there's a bird there and we want to create a shadow down here well then we're going to be working in the highlight portion of this image so if we're working in the highlight portion of the image then when I make a shadow here I need to work on where I am making it darker within my curve so I'm going to just quickly feather that okay but now when I go into my curves adjustment layer if I just had to pull down from the mid tones it's going out a lot of contrast it's not going to affect the shadows on the highlights as much it's fine that it's not affecting the shadows because we don't have any shadows there except for that little rock that I accidentally got in in my lasso but aside from that we just want to work from the highlights because pulling down from the highlights in your curve that's going to affect mostly the highlights but then suddenly effect the mid tones so it's going to create a little bit of a greater look instead of it being so saturated when you pull that curve down so I'm going to go out and pull like this and so when you do that it creates a little bit more of a natural shadow it's affecting the highlights which is where we are in the image and that's something that's really important to consider when creating a shadow it could have made that look like a bird but I didn't make it look like a bird ok any questions about that yeah of just knowing where to put the shadows and I've watched you you know in other episodes of creative live and other administrations that you've done I feel like it's really like the icing on the cake of your photo when you're doing it and you're watching the process and at the end you add the shadows and it's it just makes it so much more believable and I have a hard time just kind of reading that and knowing where to put him a lot of the times and I just wondered kind of about your process over the years of doing this and you know from the beginning to now and just how to kind of did you do just like sit around with the lights and see where it casts or how have you taught your yeah so wait I don't typically do it with lights but any time I'm in a space and I remember to do this then I will take an extra shot of like my hand in the white in some way to see where exactly the shadow was falling how harsh it was and stuff like that and you can usually use the original image of your subject as a guide kind of of what needs to happen but if you're moving them to a different background that's when it becomes a real challenge because you can't test the light so I remember like I was shooting in a stare but once we're going to look at this picture later shooting in a stairwell and there was just one sort of overhead white and I was looking at the shadows and they were changing drastically based on how close my subject was to the wall or not and she happened to be up against the wall and so when she was standing there I said ok let's take a look at this in really practical terms and so I had her put her hand right up against the wall then a little bit back in a little bit back and then a different height it's too based on where the light was so she did it down here and then she did it up here and we did a test to see how much falloff is there in the shadow and that was a really good test because even though not all of my light is the same source it still has the same principles where you know the closer the subject is to the to the floor of the wall wherever the shadow is the harsher it's going to be the darker it's going to be on dh so that was a really good lesson for me so I do that a lot and then if I'm moving my subject let's say she wasn't there I'm creating that shadow then I'm just trying to apply the same principles and say well she should have more shadow right underneath her foot there because that's really close to the water but as her body moves away from basically this point to this point then that means that there's a lot of distance between so it maybe it should get a little bit fuzzier it you get a little bit softer as it moves out and that's the kind of thing that I would end up changing with my layer mask so I would go in with my brush tool and I would take that opacity down make sure that it's a really fuzzy brush zero percent hardness and I might even just faded as it gets down to a lower point there just to start to get rid of that shadow and dissipated a little so some of it's that and a lot of it is just drawing one hundred shadows and then moving and seeing where it goes

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Logic Checklist
Must Have Shots
Favorite Photoshop Tools
Lighting Effects
Practice Files - Cutting out Hair from Background
Practice Files - Building a Dress
Practice Files - Swapping Hand
Practice Files - Levitation
Adorama Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Logan Fox

I'm so thrilled to have come across this course and to have been introduced to Brooke Shaden. As a bit of background I do photography as a hobby, and always had an appetite to composite my work. It's only after watching this course that I can finally put a name to a craft that I love, that being 'fine art photography'. Through my own personal journey I've read various books, followed online tutorials both paid and free. When I came across this course I did hesitate. I wondered 'is it going to teach me anything new'... 'would the standard of the course be up to scratch'. Well, I can honestly say with hand on heart that this is by far is one of the best courses I've come across to date. As a solo photographer myself I've found it difficult at times to be both photographer and subject at the same time. From the outset what became clear was that Brooke is just like me in this respect which made the course so 'relevant' to what I do. Brooke shows throughout the course what can be achieved with a little planning and some creative approaches to situations that can be difficult to pull off when on your own. She is such a joy to watch and listen to, I loved her sense of humor and great how the audience were involved in some of the shoots. All I can say is, if you're in to photography and interested in compositing your work, you should give this a go, you wont regret it!


I'd like to show my gratitude and gratefulness to Ms Shaden and other wonderful people at CreativeLIVE for sharing your vast knowledge without making a fuss. Not everybody has a super computer and a top-notch camera, not everyone has a studio to work in and not everyone needs to know everything as perfectly as some instructors and professionals do. I, for one, have gained so much insight and have been intrigued by Ms Shaden's present and past lessons, she makes the most difficult and surreal subjects unfold so easily and effortlessly. Ms Shaden has made me believe no matter where I be and no matter what i have, as long as i have a good story to tell, and the right vision, I should be able to handle it with a working camera and any version of Photoshop. Unlike many other instructors who kill us every 5 minutes to buy their flashes or gear and support this or that company and agency, Ms Shaden has spent the whole time teaching and teaching and teaching and I am sorry I cannot be there to thank you in person, but you, Ms Shaden, are awesome and nobody can unawesome you :)


Brooke has a wonderful way of not only making it all look so easy, but actually be easy. In a plain and down to earth manner, she can make both beginner and advanced pro comfortable with the material covered in this class. From a simple starting point to a polished post-production finished work of art, she takes us on a relaxed and joyous journey. I am a former professional commercial photographer returning to the art after a 30 year absence. When I left, there was no such thing as digital photography. Now, to be able to embrace such concepts and techniques as taught by Brooke, without any difficulty to me, says that this course provides great value and time well spent. Well done Brooke! Well done Creative Live!

Student Work