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3 Shadow Styles to Refine Product Images of Sunglasses


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Create outstanding product photos of sunglasses using these shadowing techniques.

Adding shadows to your product images can elevate your catalog to the next level, but since you should only use one type of shadow throughout all of your images to maintain consistency, it isn’t always easy to decide which type to use. Don’t fret! Knowing that each shadow style is unique and equally makes your product pop may ease your concerns about making the wrong choice.

Shadow types are merely chosen based on preference, so there is no “right” or “wrong” shadow type. Simply choose the look that you like best and use that look in all of your product images so that your catalog appears professional and appealing to customers.

There are three major types of shadows: natural shadows, drop shadows, and reflection shadows. Using the example of product images of sunglasses, this tutorial will provide a step by step guide about how to correctly create each of these three shadow types in Photoshop.

The Importance of Consistent Alignment

Before we get into the three major types of shadows, let’s discuss the importance of consistent alignment. When you’re editing large quantities of product images, cropping and aligning every image in the same manner is beneficial for the look of your product pages. The sites featured below follow strict alignment standards; as you will see, the consistency truly pays off by making the website appear clean and professional.

It is also important to know how to shape and control light, eliminating reflections and other unbecoming distractions like light spots.

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The easiest way to accomplish this level of consistency is to create detailed alignment standards and templates for photographers and image editors to follow. As we have already mentioned, another way is to use the same type of shadowing in every image.

Shadow Style #1: Natural Shadow

Natural shadow

Natural shadow

If done correctly, natural shadow can look incredibly subtle and becoming, as shown in the above image. Natural shadow is one of the easiest shadow options, as long as you photograph your product intending to use natural shadow. Utilizing one light source (and perhaps one reflector panel on the “darker” side) will allow a pair of sunglasses to naturally cast a shadow below them.

This video tutorial will show you how to properly create natural shadowing in your images. For your convenience, we have included written directions as well.

  1. Create a new layer and fill it with a white background.
  2. Move your newly-created white layer to the bottom of the layer stack.
  3. Duplicate the sunglasses layer that you have two sunglasses layers.
  4. Make a tight selection around just the sunglasses and refine your selection’s edges to be less harsh.
  5. Create a mask from your selection. Depending on whether you select the background or the sunglasses themselves in your selection, you may need to invert your mask to make sure that the sunglasses are what shows instead of the background.
  6. Change the duplicate sunglasses layer to “multiple” in the top left tab of the layer dialog box.
  7. Create a mask layer on your middle sunglasses multiplied layer and Pixelz by brushing away around the sunglasses except the shadow under the sunglasses so that is all you see. Use a feathered brush to keep everything smooth.
  8. Flatten your layers.

Shadow Style #2: Drop Shadow

Drop shadow

Drop shadow

A drop shadow, which imitates direct sunlight from above, can add a very unique and interesting effect to product images. Drop shadow is one of the fastest and easiest to consider using and can make your sunglasses stand out instead of floating on a white background.

Watch this video to see the drop shadow technique in action and read afterwards for the written instructions.

  1. Create a new layer and fill it with a white background.
  2. Move your newly-created white layer to the bottom of the layer stack.
  3. Make a tight selection around just the sunglasses and refine your selection’s edges to be less harsh.
  4. Create a mask from your selection. Depending on whether you select the background or the sunglasses themselves in your selection, you may need to invert your mask to make sure that the sunglasses are what shows instead of the background.
  5. Make an oval selection around the base of your sunglasses.
  6. Using the oval selection, create a new curves layer underneath your sunglasses layer.
  7. Adjust the curves so that your selection becomes very dark and feather the edges.
  8. Select a very feathered brush at 30% opacity and brush around the edges of your selection to form a nice fall off shadow.
  9. Make certain that the areas directly under the sunglasses’ eye frames are darkest and that the shadows lighten from there. If the shadow seems too dark, lighten the layer’s opacity.
  10. Flatten the layers.

Shadow Style #3: Reflection Shadow

Reflection shadow

Reflection shadow

A reflection shadow is a refined and dramatic shadowing effect that can really spice up an otherwise dull product image. Reflection shadowing makes your product look as though it was photographed on a reflective surface, as shown above.

If you like the look of the reflection shadow above, you can learn how to create your own by watching this video and following the written steps afterwards.

  1. Create a new layer and fill it with a white background.
  2. Move your newly-created white layer to the bottom of the layer stack.
  3. Duplicate the sunglasses layer that you have two sunglasses layers.
  4. Make a tight selection around just the sunglasses and refine your selection’s edges to be less harsh.
  5. Rotate your duplicated sunglasses layer 180 degrees (upside down, vertically). You should now see two pairs of sunglasses between the two layers: one right side up and one upside down.
  6. Align the bottom of the sunglasses together so that it looks like the upside down pair of sunglasses looks like a reflection of the pair that is right side up.
  7. Add a mask to the upside down sunglasses layer and utilize the gradient tool. Play with this tool until you get the desired look that you want to achieve. Make sure that the most opaque part of the sunglasses is nearest to the eye frames of the right side up sunglasses and that the least opaque part is farthest away from the sunglasses. This will help to create a natural reflection that falls off the farther it is from the subject.
  8. Brush out the sides and top of the sunglasses around the reflected sunglasses’ base. Continue to tweak your reflection, brushing out more or adding more back in to make it look most natural.
  9. Flatten the layers.

No matter which shadow type you choose to implement in your product photography, like shoes, or jewelry, always remember adding realistic shadowing to those images, because it can absolutely help to improve the professional appearance of your online product inventory and website.

Enhancing your customers’ viewing and shopping experiences by providing consistent and high quality imagery can encourage customers to begin envisioning themselves actually wearing your products—and that is a very good thing!