Casting larger than life shadows with Angel Aguila

Meet your mentor Angel Aguila!

Angel is the clever creative behind @heydominic, her Instagram page dedicated to her adventures with her little one Dominic. As well as having a huge spectrum of creativity, Angel has a beautiful and creative way of playing with shadows. She is the queen of adding shadows and creating some truly magic images. From the simplicity of hands to some magical dragons, Angel from @heydominic is a shadow wiz. We chat with Angel about her creative journey and get some shadowy tips.

Q&A with Angel

Hey Angel! Thanks for joining us as a mentor for our Creatively Squared shadowy challenge. We are absolutely thrilled to have you mentor the community. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Thank you so much for having me! I’m so honored, really! Well, I picked up photography when I was a teenager. I actually worked for a photographer while in college back then. Now, I have a 3 year old son and became a stay at home mom after having him. That’s when someone suggested I make an Instagram account. At first it was just everyday images then I started using editing apps, and now to Photoshop edits. I spent a lot of time teaching myself and watching YouTube tutorials!

Can you tell us about your creative process, how do you come up with ideas for what to share next on your Instagram account?

My creative process is all over the place. Some weeks I can’t think of a single thing and other weeks, I have so many ideas, I can’t finish them all. I have a notebook, as well as my phone notepad, full of ideas. Sometimes when I’m playing with my son or reading or watching something, the idea just pops in my head and I’ll jot it down. I use Pinterest and google as well for inspiration. I like to look at art and photography or even quotes to help me get creative.

This challenge is all about shadows in your images. You are so talented at playing with shadows. What are your three top tips for working with shadows?

Thank you! For one I’d say go against the rules! The general rule for creating shadows in Photoshop is never use a black brush. Shadows are usually brown in real life or a darker shade of the object you are creating the shadow for. If you are creating “shadow play” and the focus IS the shadow, use black! Number 2, always use the blend mode, “Multiply”. This particular blend mode will let your background show through a bit and give it a more realistic look. And, number 3, remember that shadows very rarely have hard edges. I always soften the edges with a Gaussian blur. Even if I want the shadow to be prominent (like in my Peter Pan edit), I still blur it slightly.

Do prefer to work with shadows as you create your images or do you add shadows in post production?

Definitely post for me. I find that I can really get creative when I have control of the way a shadow looks and the ability to make the shadow the main focus.

Any tricks / apps which aid in adding shadows to your captures?

Photoshop all the way! It is honestly the quickest, easiest way to create them.

What equipment do you use?

I use a Canon and the Canon app on my phone as a timer. Most of the time, I shoot my son by hand, and myself with the tripod and my timer on my phone. I use Photoshop and Lightroom for all of the post processing.

They say never work with children or animals but you often include your beautiful little boy in your captures. Do you have any tips to help us work with our little ones and include them more in our images?

Lol yes! Give them something to do! When Dominic was younger, I would give him snacks and he would be so busy with those that I could pose him and snap some photos quickly (a tripod helps when they’re younger because you can step out of the shot quickly). Now, I try to plan the shot in advance for the particular photo I need. Will he be holding something? Do I need him to look up or down? Things like that and I think of something he could hold that I can edit out or I’ll point to a photo I’ve tacked to the ceiling to get him to look or point up. I always set up the spot before bringing him in for a photo. And, sometimes I plan a photo around what he is into at the moment. Like the airplane photo. He had been mimicking airplanes for a while and I just took the opportunity to create what he was imagining.


As creators we are always looking for ways to do our best work with whatever materials, low budget or environment we have available to us. What’s your number one home studio hack for those that are facing the same challenges?

I actually love this question! I live in a 1920’s house and the layout is exactly what you would imagine. Tight, old, sometimes dark. My biggest hack is I snapped practice photos around my house and I use the areas with the best lighting. I also have a go-to place in my house that is mine! A little area clear of toys etc. I painted it the color I use most often in my backgrounds and I have a little cube shelf with all my props. Look in second hand stores, little local shops etc. or just around your house! You’d be surprised at how many great props you can find just lying around.

We can all relate to falling in and out of love with Instagram, how has your account evolved over time?

Oh yes definitely know that feeling. I think that at first I felt like I had to create photos that were always aesthetically perfect on my grid. I checkered it (dark and light), I tried keeping it dark then tried keeping it light. It was exhausting. Especially when your ideas don’t quite match up with your grid. So now, at this point, I’ve stopped worrying about it. I’m a creative so I can’t throw out brilliant ideas when they come to me just because they don’t “sit well” on my grid. Post whatever you love, be friends with your community, and you’ll find that others will love it just as much, even if you don’t have a perfect grid.

Angel xx

Angel is the guest mentor for our June 24 - 30 creative challenge ‘The Dark Side’ and will be featuring her favourite shadowy entries and feedback on the @creativelysquared Instagram account. You can find Angel @heydominic or simply click on each image to take you directly to the post on Instagram. We invite you to join Angel and the rest of the Creatively Squared community and lets explore whats lurking behind the shadows. Hit the button below for entry information and full resources.