Creating shadows in Photoshop

Creating believable shadows in Photoshop is something that elevates composite photography. It is something I have found SO hard, over the years. I have tried different methods, all gleaned from YouTube and gathered a couple of go-to strategies. The same strategy doesn’t always work for every image.

Curves and select and mask

Select the area you want to shadow with the Lasso tool. Click select and mask and then feather. The more you feather, the softer the edge of the shadow. Remember, shows and darker and harder the closer they are to the subject.

Use a curves layer to adjust the depth of the shadow. Often a play in the highlights area is enough.

Painting shadows with the brush tool

Select a new layer below your subject, for shadows behind your subject.

Use the brush tool to paint shadows. Keep the brush fairly hard for shadows that meet the subject. I add a new layer for each part of the shadow as it moves away from the subject – dark, mid, light.

Reduce the hardness of the brush as you move through the three layers of shadow. I use a super soft brush for the mid and light shadows.

Reduce the opacity of the brush to as little as 4%. It’s easy to add more depth. Start light.

Sometimes I have 5 or 6 shadow layers for a subject, or part of a subject, adding a bit at a time. Plus it easier to get rid of mistakes!

Top tip for believable brush shadows! – Colour match the brush colour to the shadows on your original subject using the dropper tool!

Happily ever after

“Kiss me and I’ll turn into a prince. Then we can get married and you can be a princess,” said the toad.

“I don’t want to be a princess and I don’t want to marry a prince!” exclaimed Hope. ” But I do need a horse… ”

With a swish of her wand, the Frog Prince grew tall and sleek, with a flowing black mane and jet black skin.

 “You make a pretty pony!” Hope beamed. The frog prince snorted and stamped his foot. “Oh, shush,’ replied Hope. “I’ll restore you to your princely glory. But first I need you to take me somewhere.” She waved her wand above her head. Her body grew and her wings disappeared. She climbed onto the Frog prince and whispered into his ear, “Where we’re going, I need to be human, and I need your speed.”

A lot of traditional children’s stories end with a ‘happily ever after’, which is often the main female lead marry a prince of some sort.

While this was the only aspiration offered to girls in centuries gone by, it is now outdated and patronising.

The stories that we read with our very young children help shape their brains, beliefs and values. With these traditional stories, are we subtly programming our little girls to believe that happiness lies in marrying their prince?

I don’t mind reading them, I think they are part of our historic culture. My daughter loves these stories and already aspires to get married!😱 🤪However, these stories need to be counter balanced with stories of strong female characters who’s happily ever afters don’t involve being rescued or getting married. I struggle to find a huge variety of such stories.

If you have any story book recommendations to inspire little girls, please leave them in the comments!