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How to Avoid Shadows on Backdrops

Shadows can be bothersome when trying to get the perfect picture. Also, it can be hard to avoid spending in the light type you use. However, various ways are available to help you manipulate light and avoid shadows. 

If you're interested, the following write-up looks at the methods you can use to eliminate shadows from your photos. Read on to get the tips and other ways you can creatively use shadows to create aesthetic shots. Let's get started. 

Why Do You Get Shadows?

man's photo with Kate Hot Sale 6x9ft Solid Yellow Cloth Backdrop Portrait Photography

Kate Hot Sale 6x9ft Solid Yellow Cloth Backdrop Portrait Photography

As mentioned in the intro, shadows arise from your type of lighting. Normally you'll get varying results when using natural and artificial lighting. Additionally, your type of props and backgrounds/backdrops can influence shadows. 

Here's how shadows can appear when using either of the lighting methods: 

  • Shooting at the wrong daytime: You can get shadows depending on the sun's positioning. 
  • Using a bright light source: A bright light source can cast your subject's shadows. 
  • Using dim lights: A dim source leads to shadow creation on your subject.
  • Wrong background choice: If you use a white backdrop, shadows will be more visible. A black backdrop will absorb light and minimize shadows. 
  • Poor subject/object placement: A combination of a bright source and poor placement can lead to harsh shadows on the backdrop or background.

girl's photo with Kate Red White and Blue Wood Backdrop for Photography Designed by Pine Park Collection

Kate Red White and Blue Wood Backdrop for Photography Designed by Pine Park Collection

Tips on Avoiding Shadows on Your Backdrops

So, how can you avoid the above situations? It's easier than you might think, read on to get more details. 

Here are tips you can use to avoid shadows: 

Use Reflecting Equipment 

Using reflectors, regardless of your lighting type, is a simple solution. They help change the direction of the light away from the subject. However, they mostly help illuminate the subject's dark sections and create a consistent look. 

Research on the Basics of Light Direction

If you keep getting shadows even when using reflectors, then you need to learn more on how the specific direction of light can affect your photo subject. This is especially true when using artificial lighting in studio shoots. 

Here are some of the things you should know:

  • Light travels in a straight line, thus ensuring the main source faces the object/subject. 
  • Side lights create sharp shadows. 
  • Aerial lighting creates weirdly shaped shadows beneath your photo subject. 

To counter the shadows, eliminate some of the unnecessary lighting or use a reflector to bounce the light back to your subject. 

baby's photo with Kate Abstract Backdrop Grey Tuxture Designed by Jia Chan Photography

Kate Abstract Backdrop Grey Tuxture Designed by Jia Chan Photography

Use Your Light Creatively

Another reliable tip is manipulating the light to your advantage. You can apply simple lighting sources like torches to illuminate the dark areas slightly.  

Other lighting sources you can use in low light conditions include a phone light. Additionally, the camera flash can help eliminate harsh shadows. However, you might need a diffuser to soften the flash's effect. 

Utilize the Camera's Light Metre

One unique way to manipulate your lighting is using a light meter. For instance, you can point the camera toward your subject and then press the metering button on your camera to take a light reading. Examples of recommended readings are F/2.8 @250th for highlights and F/2.8 @90th for shadows.

Use Editing tools

You can also use Adobe tools like Photoshop and Lightroom to eliminate your photo shadows. The software allows you to be without bothering about your type of light. However, ensure to use all lighting options available before settling for post-editing solutions. 

Luckily, there are modern editing tools that incorporate AI features. They include options like Luminar Neo or the user’s favorite, Canva. 

If you're interested, here's a tutorial on how to eliminate shadows with Adobe Photoshop: 

  • Step 1: Use the Quick Selection tool or Lasso tool to select.
  • Step 2: Access “Select and Mask” to refine your selection.
  • Step 3: Create a New Layer after selecting the shadows. This will isolate the shadows. 
  • Step 4: Apply adjustment layers like Levels, Curves, or Brightness/Contrast to lighten or eliminate the shadow. Explore the option till you get the desired results. Experiment with the settings until you achieve the desired result.
  • Step 5: Use the blending modes to blend the shadows with your background. 
  • Step 6: Utilize the Healing Brush Tool to touch up any remaining dark areas. 
  • Step 7: Fine-tune: Zoom in and carefully inspect the image to ensure the removal looks natural and seamless. 
  • Step 8: Merge your layers. 

woman's photo with Kate Abstract Gradient Green to Pink Backdrop Designed by Kate Image

Kate Abstract Gradient Green to Pink Backdrop Designed by Kate Image

Shoot Against the Light

This is a basic principle that comes in handy when trying to eliminate shadows. If you need multiple angles, ensure you strategically place your lights before you start shooting. Additionally, you can have an extra to help move the lights while you capture shadowless shots. 

Understand Your Camera Settings 

Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed are the basic controls that dictate the photo's final outlook. They are dependent on your DSLR type, whereas premium options come with extensive sensor adjustments. 

Firstly, you should balance these settings to get crisp shots and avoid shadows. Here's how you can manipulate these settings to your advantage: 

  • Increase your aperture to allow more light in. Use f/8 or higher to eliminate the shadows. 
  • Use a faster shutter speed, preferably 1/250 or more. 
  • Let your ISO be higher: 800 or higher. 

Remember that these settings are dependent on the type of lighting available. 

woman's photo with Kate Oil Painting Flowers Backdrop Vintage Hand Painted Texture Designed by GQ

Kate Oil Painting Flowers Backdrop Vintage Hand Painted Texture Designed by GQ

Position Your Subject Correctly

How you position your subject is crucial. Here are tips you can use in different shooting contexts: 

  • If you are outdoors, place the photo subject in the shade, which helps reduce shadows on their face.
  • For studio shoots, place your subject relatively away from your backdrop option. This is especially true when using a white backdrop, which makes the shadows more visible.  
  • The subject should not be too close to lights to avoid overexposure. Also, they shouldn't block lights as that will create silhouettes.

Use Third-Party Sources to Illuminate Your Shadows

If you're shooting in low lighting, use light sources to illuminate the shadows. This makes the hidden details pop out.

Conclusion

Shadows can be a great way to add depth and dimension to your photos. However, they can be a nuisance in various. Ensure you understand the basic rules of applying artificial lighting. The article, the methods, and highlights other tips you can use to get better results. If it’s impossible to manipulate the lights while on set, tools like Photoshop can help eliminate the shadows. 

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