Shadows in my Photos

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by priti_aziz, Aug 4, 2009.

  1. My question is twofold. I took these photos using a mounted flash but as you can see one photo has no shadow and the other does. The photos were taken in the same place with the same camera settings. Why did I get shadows in one and not the other? What is the best way to prevent shadows in the future without lugging lots of lighting equipment around with me?
    Secondly, is there a way to take out the shadows using Photoshop?
  2. With shadow
  3. Use a mounted flash that allows you to bounce the light off the ceiling.
  4. Shadow is all about which direction the light comes from. In your first photo, it appears the light was from directly behind you (on camera flash?) and on the second one the light was slightly offset to the photographer's right.
    To eliminate shadow you have to eliminate point sources of light (like a flash or the sun) from a single source. That's why most portrait photographers use multiple strobes--no shadows because the light hits all areas. When photographing in bright sun, use a flash to "fill" in the shadows. You can also use bounced flash if it's a broad enough source (lots of white walls with a low white ceiling and/or a diffuser helps a lot).
  5. In addition, you can move your subjects further away from the backdrop to minimize shadows.
  6. Could it be that you held the flash higher above your head on the first shot causing the shadows to fall in back and below the subject ? The second shot might have been taken with the flash a little lower and to the side. The first shot is much better exposed than the second by the way. Removing shadows is very tedious and difficult in photoshop. There might be better ways, but I usually use the Clone Tool and the Healing brush
  7. I agree with the group, your flash did change position. Yes, you can edit this out in PS, In my version, First I took a color sample from the wall, then I used the magic wand at about 20 and selected the wall area. Then I used the paint brush at 100% and erased the shadows. Of course I’m sure there are other ways that may work better. ~Jack
  8. In this picture, I changed the backdrop, just dorkin'. ~Jack
  9. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Could it be that the flash wasn't fully recharged on the second shot and the shadow is from ambient light that wasn't reduced by the weak flash?
  10. There's a shadow in both. On the first you were holding the camera normally (with the flash on the top), on the second you turned it sideways so the flash was on the right.
  11. Mark is exactly right! When the flash is above the camera (as when you hold the camera normally) the shadows fall below and behind the subjects. They are hidden (mostly.) When you turn the camera on its side, the shadows also move the side (the other side) and they are not hidden.
    This is the reason that you see wedding photographers with their cameras on brackets that keep the flash above the the lens. Well . . . it's one of the reasons anyway . . .
  12. Thanks for all the suggestions and insights. Several of you said that the shadows may have to do with me turning the camera, however the camera was at the same angle on both shots. That is why I am a bit perplexed. I almost wonder if it could have to do with what James said and that the flash did not fully recharge when the 2nd photo was taken. I have a Sigma EF-5000 DG ST flash. Any suggestions for a stronger/better flash so that I can prevent or minimize the chance that this happens again?
    Also, any other ideas on how to remove the shadow in photoshop. I like Jack's suggestion and will definitely try it.
  13. Assuming that your flash was in the same position relative to the camera and subject in both shots, it's possible that the wall was closer in the second picture than the first, and perhaps at more of an angle.
    Normally you'd eliminate the shadows by raising the flash high above the camera and pointing it down at your subject--an old photojournalist trick called "feathering." If you're working with a hot shoe now, you need a short (3' to 5') synch cord, and if you don't have a synch outlet on your camera, you want a cord that will connect to your hot shoe and then to your flash, or a more expensive wireless sych device, such as a Pocket Wizard. It works better when the background is further away from the subject. Another technique is to diffuse the flash with any of a number of flash modifiers--check them out at Adorama. The best diffusion is to bounce the flash off a large area, such as a wall or ceiling, but you can do very well with a bounce card. Most of the smaller flash diffusers don't work that well--too small an area.
    Another way to eliminate shadows in PS is with the Clone tool. The trick is simply to clone from the nearest area possible and use a mode like Lighten. When you're done, you'll have edge artifacts, and another trick is to make them inconspicuous with light strokes of the Smudge tool.
  14. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Several of you said that the shadows may have to do with me turning the camera, however the camera was at the same angle on both shots. That is why I am a bit perplexed. I almost wonder if it could have to do with what James said and that the flash did not fully recharge when the 2nd photo was taken."

    No, I do not think it has anything to do with Flash Recycle. There seems no appreciable lighting or exposure difference to believe there was a significant influence of any ambient light on the first frame. And, I agree, you might not have moved the camera. Or you might think you might not have moved the camera. Was the camera on a Tripod?

    There is about ten seconds between frames and the camera has been touched, because the zoom's Focal Length has been changed. Although the Camera/Flash might not have moved, I believe there is substantial evidence to confirm the 3D RELATIONSHIP between the SUBJECTS and the LIGHTING source has changed. If the Flash head was not moved, then the Subjects moved their position, in relation to the Flash head.

    These were quite small movements or combination of movements and it is most likely they have gone un-noticed at the time especially if the camera was not on a tripod.

    Let’s assume that the Subject to Backdrop distance is 4 ft. Also let’s assume the Subject to Camera distance is 8ft. Note the comparisons below: just looking at the shadow from the BASE of Woman’s hair it throws a shadow on the backdrop about 3 inches downward in the first image; in the second image there is about a three inch shadow thrown to camera left from the side of her hair line.

    To make that difference in the shadow thrown, the Camera/Flash only needs to be moved 6 inches to the RIGHT and 6 inches DOWNWARD, in the time between the two shots. If the camera and Flash were NOT on a tripod then I suggest that movement would often go unnoticed by most Photographers using an hand held Camera/Flash WHILST CHANGING THE ZOOM.

    On the other hand, the subjects could have moved about 4 inches and the shadow would have change that much in that scenario I gave as an example. (It is evident the Man has moved to camera left, between Frame#1 and Frame#2)

    The sketch diagrams greatly exaggerate the relative movement of the Camera/Flash and the Subjects, but clearly in “A” the Flash is Higher and in Front of the Woman; and in “B” the Flash is at eye level (to the woman) and to Camera Right of the Woman. The diagrams over the image crops shows the relativities of the shadows, in both.


    “Any suggestions for a stronger/better flash so that I can prevent or minimize the chance that this happens again?”

    It is not the Flash, it is your technique. As already mentioned you could look at Diffusers and or Bounce Flash.

    If you wish to use direct Flash then you will find least problems with Shadows by moving out of the Studio environment and using Direct Flash as Fill, in Sunlight, with no hard background on which it can cast a shadow.

  15. There are many ways to fix the problem with harsh shadows. Since the background is even I'd use the various brushes:
    • Color to target
    • Hue to target
    • Lightness to target
    The advantage to this technique over cloning is that it does not alter the texture of the original background. It changes the color and lightness of the original pixels, but does not replace them with pixels from elsewhere on the photo. Very handy for textured backgrounds or subjects where it would be difficult to precisely mimic the original textures. And in the case of a plain continuous tone background it's a snap.
    With a higher resolution version you'd get better results achieving a more natural transition between the background and woman's hair, which are similar enough in color to be tricky for any repair technique in a low resolution JPEG.
    And as others have pointed out, the position of the flash was changed. That accounts for the dramatic difference in the shadows. Because the original EXIF data was altered in preparing your JPEGs for online display there is no indication of the original camera position, but if you check your originals you may find that you changed the orientation of the camera from horizontal/landscape to vertical/portrait orientation, which will affect the shadows with any on-camera flash unless a bracket or other technique is used.
  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    What post production technique do you consider the best to use, if we wish to remove:
    a) the harsh shadow on the Woman's white top, which is thrown by the Girl's right arm (of Primary Significance, IMO)
    b) the shadow from the Girl's hair on the Woman's bust, neck and hair? (of Secondary significance, IMO - perhaps just the "hard" shadow on the Woman's neck and hair)
  17. Several of you said that the shadows may have to do with me turning the camera, however the camera was at the same angle on both shots.
    It's not that I don't believe you, but I find this highly unlikely, assuming the flash was mounted to the hotshoe of the camera. Was it? If so, please post the full (uncropped) frames to prove that the camera was not rotated.
  18. The catchlight in the subjects' eyes indicates the flash was centered over the lens in the photo with the less objectionable shadow. The catchlight in the version with the harder side shadows indicates the flash was off to one side. So while the camera orientation itself might not have been changed between shots, the flash was. Were you using the Sigma flash off camera, triggered by a sync cord or other remote trigger?
  19. Lex,
    I've noted your Hue/Lightness/Color to Target technique for future use. To demonstrate more fully, let's see you take out the shadows cast by the little girl onto Mommy.

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