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.

Photo using a palm frond shadow by Shriya  @ofmixednotions

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.

Photo using masking tape on the window to create an interesting shadow by  @christall.lowe

Photo using masking tape on the window to create an interesting shadow by @christall.lowe

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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.

Fun shadow effects added in Photoshop by  @heydominic

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

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.

Adding human hands via shadows to enhance the narrative. Image via Barbora  @herinternest

Adding human hands via shadows to enhance the narrative. Image via Barbora @herinternest

Have you experimented with adding creative shadows in your images? We would love you to share them with us by tagging your image on Instagram with @creativelysquared and our shadow play hashtag #cs_thedarkside. Please browse the hashtag feed for more examples and inspiration!