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How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection

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Category: Adobe Photoshop

How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection - When you paste an object into another picture make sure it looks real with a natural shadow

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Adding a shadow to your digital placed elements will create a more natural composite
Words & Pictures Peter Bargh ePHOTOzine

This ornamental statue was photographed in a local pub. The lighting was tungsten and the camera was set to auto white balance so it's compensated.
I'm going to cut this out and place it into a room location so it looks like it's a full sized servant. I used the Photoshop Extract option to paint around the object and make the background transparent.
How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection
I then pasted it into the room location and resized it using the transform tool to make it look to scale. I also used the color correction tool to adjust the tones and make it look as though it was in the scene and with similar lighting, which is more yellow. How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection

Now to the object of this exercise - the shadow. If you look at the statue you'll see he looks pasted on because there's no shadow. This can be created easily using a few steps. There is a drop shadow option in Photoshop but this puts a shadow around the subject and not at the angle we need.

Before you start take a look at the shadows of objects in the shot. Here the table and chairs have shadows below and to the front right. These are produced from the sun coming through the skylight window.

Duplicate the ornament layer by dragging it to the layer icon in the layer palette or click it and select Layer>Duplicate Layer from the menu. With the duplicated layer active go to Image>Adjustments>Threshold.

How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection
This calls up a histogram with one slider. The layer is then reduced to black or white and the Threshold slider controls the point where the tones change from black to white. Drag it all the way to the right and you'll notice all the selection becomes black. (Dragging it to the left would make it all white) Click okay and you now have a shadow of the object covering the layer below. How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection
No go to Edit>Transform and select the distort optionl. Click on and drag the top corner and pull it down so it is below the bottom corner and do the same with the other side. This will flip your created shadow. Pull the corners so the shadow appears to be at an angle similar to the other shadows in the photo and make it squat by reducing the height. Play around until the shadow looks natural. You may want to use the Move tool to reposition the base of the shadow so it's correctly placed below the feet of the ornament. How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection
Now go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and adjust the radius slider so the hard edged shadow displayed becomes soft. Make sure Preview is selected so you can see the result as it changes on the actual photograph. Notice that the softening effect has made the shadow near the feet appear to have a gap. You may need to go back to the shadow layer and adjust the position as I had to in the next stage below. How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection
Use the Transform>Distort option again to adjust the position and size of the shadow so it looks natural. I also reduced the opacity to make the shadow look less harsh. It's at 60% now. How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection
And when you are satisfied with the result save a layered copy so you can edit in future, and save a flattened version if you want to send your masterpiece to a friend or to a web site. How to create a natural looking shadow on a selection

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