Visual Content Creation

5 creative ways to add interesting shadow effects to your images

Post by
Ruth Stephensen
5 creative ways to add interesting shadow effects to your images

Shadows can add greatly enhance the aesthetic and help build the narrative of your image. Using them creatively can have great impact and add intrigue, mood and depth to your photo. Whether you are using the sun to cast real life shadows or adding them after in your post production there are lots of different ways you can use them to make your image more creative.

We’ve compiled our top 5 ways to use shadows in an innovative way to make your photos more interesting:

1. Use plants or other objects to cast a shadow

A great way to add an extra layer of interest or to highlight some negative space is to use a plant or leaf to cast a shadow onto your subject. This is an effective way to use natural light but in a controlled way indoors, you may need to rope in an assistant to hold the plant in the right spot or simply use your timer or bluetooth remote if you are shooting on your own.

Interior style magazines with a teacup and interesting palm frond shadows
Photo using a palm frond shadow by Shriya @ofmixednotions

2. Add tape to your windows

We were blown away with this simple effect that we saw @christall.lowe using in her photos. To get this beautiful window frame effect Christall simply applied masking tape to her window in a grid shape. The natural light casts creates a geometric shadow that adds real depth and mood to Christall's image.

Afternoon tea and cake flatlay with interesting geometric style shadows
Photo using masking tape on the window to create an interesting shadow by @christall.lowe
Behind the scenes look at how to use tape to get a lattice shadow effect in your photo

3. Use Photoshop to add a creative shadow element

A fun way to enhance your storytelling is by adding some larger than life shadow effects in Photoshop. These shadows can take the form of anything you like and create the perfect opportunity to let your imagination run wild! You can use digital shadows to add an unexpected element to your image to build narrative or create a fantasy effect.

Creative photoshop edit showing hands picking up shadows cast on the wall
Fun shadow effects added in Photoshop by @heydominic

4. Add a shadow overlay in post production

This is a quick and easy shadow effect you can achieve in your edit right from your smartphone. There are loads of free shadow effect images you can download and multiply onto your image to create an interesting shadow overlay. For a step by step guide on how to achieve this effect see our blog: Using overlays to add artistic shadows to your image with Photoshop Mix

A flatlay of magazines and pastry with a photoshop overlay of a geometric shadow

5. Use shadows to add a human element to your image

You can also add interesting and creative real life shadows using your hands or people to enhance your visual storytelling. By replacing actual people or models in your image with shadows you can create a quirky visual effect that allows your subject matter to be the hero of the shot.

Introducing a human element in the shadow of this image
Adding human hands via shadows to enhance the narrative. Image via Barbora @herinternest

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