Two of the most important, and often overlooked, elements in a good photomontage are the shadows and the light source. Here, again, my CS3 coursework failed me. The CS3 textbook used only had one sentence on shadows in a three-paragraph section on how to make combined images look more realistic. And, the course didn’t talk at all about light sources at all.
Steve Caplin, on the other hand, wrote 15 tutorials on the subject in his book, How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed. Again, because I learned so much in this tutorial, I am splitting it up into several parts.
The simplest shadows to create are along the ground and up walls. In the first tutorial of Chapter 7 Caplin discusses fast and easy ways to create this effect. In the image below a simple shadow is added to the floor to make the two element image look more realistic.
Note how in the image on the left the boy looks like he was photoshoped into the room because he appears to be floating just above the floor. On the right, just the addition of the shadow places the boy firmly on the floor and in the room. Following Cpalin’s instructions I created the shadow simply by duplicating the boy, filling that copied image with black, reducing the opacity, transforming the image and then adding a slight gradient so that the shadow would appear to fade as it got further away from the boy. A bit of black shading was also added with a soft brush at a low opacity underneath his shoes.
The foregoing technique works fine if there is a large section of ground space. However, subjects have an awful habit of appearing closer to the wall. Caplin demonstrated how to do this in the second half of this tutorial as seen in the image pair below:
Once again, on the left the boy appears to float in the room, he’s just closer to the wall this time. To remedy the situation, Caplin instructs his readers to use the Rectangular Marquee tool to select the top half of the shadow, where it meets the wall, and then transform the selection so that it has the proper vertical. Note how much more realistic this looks in the image on the right.
Tricky Ground Shadows
Images don’t always allow for shadows to be created using the previous technique. Sometimes due to the light source, or light levels, the shadow needs to be made only from part of the image. The following image pair demonstrates:
In the right image, the shadow was created by making a selection of just the bottom part of the toaster. To complete the shadow, the same process of creating a new layer, and filling it with black at a reduced opacity, was used.
Sometimes a shadow has to be created from scratch, as it were, by painting it in. This is seen in the following image pair:In the image on the right, first a shadow was painted directly beneath the clock and then one was painted behind the clock.
The next tutorial came from a previous Friday Challenge and, judging by the 26 images from submissions, no one got it completely right. I’m glad I wasn’t part of the forum at that time! This would have been very tricky to figure out:
In order to create the shadow in the right image, Caplin instructs to first select the lenses, make a copy, fill them with black, and then reduce the opacity by using the Fade dialog box. Next, he instructs adding to the selection the sunglasses frame and filling it with black. Now comes the trick. Instead of trying to transform the sunglasses shadow as a whole, Caplin instructs his readers to separate the glasses into three pieces: the frame with lenses, the far bow and the near bow. Then, transform the pieces separately. However, he also says to discard the near bow shadow and make a duplicate of the far bow. This is because the light source is from the side and it would be easier to get the correct shape using a duplicate of the far bow. As I said before, I am thankful I wasn’t a forum member for this challenge.
Light From Windows
Instead of shadows, light is the focus of the last tutorial from Caplin’s book I’m going to discuss in this blog post, using the following images:
The image on the left is perfectly respectable and looks like something out of an interior design magazine. On the right, the added light as if coming from out doors that throws window pain shadows makes the room look as if something dramatic is about to happen. Will Philippa receive Alistaire’s letter in time to prevent her from marrying Harold? Will Reginald’s love for Fiona ever be returned? And, what about Naomi?
Next: Light and Shade – Part 2