Over the next few posts I want to cover what I consider to be the key to believable compositions and that is creating shadows. If the shadow an object casts looks off to the viewer’s eye, then the image will scream composited. If you introduce an object into a scene, then that object should be lit from the same direction as everything else in the scene. Therefore, it should have the same types of shadows as everything else in the scene. Look at your composite. Are all the shadows going different directions? Does your scene look “cut and paste”? Then you can pretty much bet the light/shadows are off somewhere.
The key to understanding how to draw shadows has to do with visualizing your image as a 3D space in your head. It is really not complicated as long as you keep one simple principle in mind and that is, light does not bend unless it hits a reflective surface. And since light doesn’t bend, then the absence of light doesn’t bend either. You can figure out where the shadows need to be if you draw a straight line from your source of light to your object. This gives you clues as to where you need to draw in the shadows.
Below is a short tutorial that demonstrates this principle really well. I think, once you see how light and shadows work in perspective, you will be able to figure out where to draw your shadows in your own compositions. Do not get too caught up in learning how to draw converging lines and horizon points etc… I just want you to get the basic principle of how light and objects interact. The lower the light is on your object, the longer the shadows. The higher the light is on your object the shorter the shadows. You know that conceptual portrait you have been working on and you just can’t get it to look “right”? This right here might be just the info you need…
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