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Category: New Questions

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Photography Question 
Mandi M. Wiltse
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/30/2007
 

Shadows Against a Backdrop


 
 
I'm very new at this and just bought and received my first backdrop. My question is about shadows. I don't have any extensive lighting yet, but would that correct the problem with the "shadows" you see in some of my photos or do I just need to adjust my subject? Any feedback would be appreciated!

4/18/2008 2:14:13 PM

 
Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Mandi, the "drop shadows" you speak of are the result of three factors - the "hardness" of the light, the distance of the subject from the background and the distance from the lens axis to the light source. As you increase each of the latter, the shadow will be less visible.
"Hard" light refers to high-contrast illumination - think of a sunny day at the beach. As a point light source, your electronic flash is a hard light source unless you modify it with some sort of diffusion - there are many flash diffusion gadgets on the market. The diffuser makes the light softer - think of an overcast day where the sun is diffused by the cloud cover - which helps eliminate shadows.
Meanwhile, it's just a matter of having enough room in the studio and asking the subject to step forward. A few feet may make a big difference.
As for increasing the lens-to-light-source distance - this is what flash brackets are made to do. Alternatively, you could have your flash mounted on a light stand off to one side and triggered by remote control.
Hope that helps,

4/18/2008 3:41:25 PM

 
Mandi M. Wiltse
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/30/2007
  Much thanks. I've ordered a few more backdrops and will work on my photos with the things you mentioned!!

4/18/2008 4:47:38 PM

 
Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Hi Mandi,
Understanding light and shadows is the essence of photography and we all work at that our whole careers. Bob is correct but there is more too. We see shadows every day and often don't think about them. I joke with some of my subjects that I spent years learning how to get shadows out of photos -- now I'm (sometimes) putting them back in as part of the composition. Putting your flash on a bracket (wedding photographers do this all the time) elevates the flash above the lens. The shadow is still there but it drops low behind the subject and is hidden from view. In the studio, raising the flash about 45 degrees and moving it to the side not only helps hide shadows, it generally provides more shape and form to the subject you are photographing. Of course you modify this depending on your subject and a bunch of things you intend to do but it generally works. Bouncing your flash off a wall, a large white card or shooting through some diffusion material also help. When I started I used darker backgrounds because the hid the shadows more until I learned how to control them. As you add more equipment, a background light will help also. Remember that the falloff of light varies in an inverse square proportion (I failed physics in high school and God laughs when I have to use it every day.LOL) so a little distance away from the background can make a big difference with shadows too.Check out my web site at photosbydart.com or e-mail at bdphoto@ptd.net if I can answer any other question. What seems clear when you start sometimes gets a little muddled when you actually do it. Good luck, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!

4/22/2008 4:41:31 AM

 
Mandi M. Wiltse
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/30/2007
  thanks for the repsonse bruce. I will be looking at your website today and I'm sure I will be amazed. Everyone here is always so nice and helpful.

Like I said I'm very new at this, but I'm sure I will be able to master the art of photography the more I practice! :)

4/22/2008 6:14:46 AM

 
Roy A. Meeks
Contact Roy
Roy's Gallery

member since: 10/21/2003
  Until you have a two or three light system always be sure that the shadow is behind the back of the subjects head i.e. the subject should never be looking at the shadow if it is a profile. Roy Meeks

4/22/2008 8:45:43 AM

 
Mandi M. Wiltse
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/30/2007
  Roy could you please explain a little more? I'm not sure that I understand on to make sure the shadow is behind my subjects head?

4/22/2008 10:43:21 AM

 
Bruce A. Dart

member since: 1/7/2007
  Hi Mandi,
A flash unit from camera position will put the shadow behind the subject. Raising the flash, as with a bracket or a synch cord, will cause the shadow to fall down low behind the subject. A flash to the left of the camera -- at camera height -- will create a shadow on the opposite side. If you don't have a "modeling light" that shows you where the light is going, you can demonstrate it with a flashlight or any other light near the flash pointed in the same direction just to show how the shadows fall.
Bruce

4/22/2008 11:43:25 AM

 
John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John-Siskin.com
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Getting Started in Commercial Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio
  Hi Mandi,
You might ant to look at this article on how to manipulate one light. www.siskinphoto.com/magazine3a.htmlIt is the quality of light that creates shadows. There are some more articles on my site and here that should help.
Thanks, John Siskin

4/22/2008 3:29:26 PM

 

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