realistic manipulations- shadows


posted on 29th of may, 2008

I want to start by giving a big thank you to everyone that welcomed me to dreamstime, you seem like an awesome crowd and i'm really glad to be a part of it:)

Like I said in my first blog I am very much looking forward to sharing some of my tips and ideas here since I learned a lot by others and because the stock pictures here have inspired me to do art i'm very proud of.

Manipulating pictures on a daily basis I picked up some things that works really good when aiming for a realistic look. I will go through some of them here:) The first thing that can really make or break a picture is to know how to make realistic shadows. I see so many amazing photo manipulations that have very unrealistic shadows and it can really take the focus away from the beauty of the picture. It takes some practice but once you get used to it it's very very simple.
I'm using photoshop, and a basic picture of a model. What I want to do is to duplicate my model layer (make sure it's NOT attached to the background) and then lock the layer by pressing the little square right next to the word "lock" on the layer palette.
What you did now was that you made a replica of your model layer but you locked the pixels so that whatever you do with that layer, such as painting, you can ONLY paint on the pixels that already exist. And that's exactly what we need right now, so get the brush tool and pick the color black. Then you just paint all over the model until you see it completely in black. That's our shadow base.
You can now unlock the layer by pressing the same little square and move the entire layer down so that it's under the original model layer. You simply click one time on the layer you want to move and see it turn blue and then drag it to where you want it. Make sure it's right under the model layer. Now we have the model's shadow right under the model. We need to give it some blur. Go to filter, blur, gaussian blur. You can experiment with the settings here, different blur looks good with different shadows.
When you have done that you either A, use this is a way to "ground" the model by making the feet look like they belong on the ground.
Or B, make an entire shadow for the model.
You can do both by duplicating the shadow base and then using it two times. If you want to A, ground the model you need to use a pretty low pixel setting with the blur, 2-4 will do, but once again experiment. After that you simply erase everything on the shadow layer BESIDES the black right under her feet. Remember that the settings you need to use will differ depending on picture size, model pose, sunlight and so on.
If we want to B, make an entire shadow we simply go to Edit and transform. Experiment with "perspective" "scew" and "distort". This takes some practice, you have to "drag" the shadow to fit your needs and the models shape. Something I often do is that I choose "scew" and drag it until it looks good but still too "high". After that I pick "distort" to drag the shadow down.
What's important to decide is how the shadow would fall in real life. Where does the sun come in? Is there a wall behind? What's the weather like? All these factors play a role in how you decide to make your shadow. A good easy tips is to inspect other shadows in the background, how do they fall, how long are they, what direction are they falling at, how "thick" are they? Also check color and the way they interact with each other. Once you made it this far you will probably need to lower the opacity of the shadow. Also remember that a shadow is heavier and darker at the very beginning, it gets lighter and blurrier with lenght. You can fix this by using the eraser at a low opacity and simply remove some shadow where you want it to be lighter. You can also go and add more blur as you go if you wish. There's tons of different way to do this, this is just something I often do. I also have to recomend a good plugin for this, it's by alien skin and it's in the pack eye candy 5:impact. You can try it by downloading a demo version here: http://www.alienskin.com/ec5i/index.html
I'm sorry for the lack of pictures and I hope it isn't too hard to read as it is. I could for some reasons not attach the pictures I made for the tutorial so I will keep trying. If you have any questions at all about this just let me know!

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Photo credits: Monika Wisniewska.

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I'm a huge art fan, I love photography, painting, design, writing, theater, even making little purple bows for my adorable grumpy little dog:)


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