Continuing on with the “Creating Shadows” blog series, today I want to show you how to solve a very common problem in compositing and that is when your objects surface shadows are too “flat”. In other words, your object doesn’t have the same amount of contrast as the rest of your image.
You may remember from the earlier blog posts in this series, the light source dictates how high contrast the surface shadows will appear. The closer the light the more intense the shadows, the further away from the light source the softer and less intense the shadows etc… If you have not had a chance to see the other posts in this series you can view them here: 1. It’s In the Shadows… 2. When You Hit A Brick Wall… 3. The Point of Contact 4. How To Select Objects With Their Shadows Intact 5. Adding Cast Shadows By Hand 6. Using Photoshop’s default action to create cast shadows… 7. Surface Shadows: Dodge the peaks and burn the valleys…
This variation in surface shadows is usually a quick and easy fix. There are a thousand different ways you adjust an objects contrast: you could use a curves adjustment layer, exposure adjustment layer or a brightness and contrast adjustment layer… however the method I am going to demonstrate I believe to be the easiest and most accurate.
Go ahead and mask off the object you’re wanting to adjust. Having the object right on top of the background will help you determine how much to adjust the levels. I have found, if I don’t mask off my object before I make the levels adjustment, I end up matching the wrong parts of the image and not the object itself.
Select your object layer, create a levels adjustment layer and “clip it” to your object layer. This way you are only adjusting the layer with the object and not your entire image. Once you click on the levels adjustment the properties window will open up. Click on the little triangles and move them to the left and the right. You will notice as you move them around you will see the affect on your object in real time. Trust your eyes. A lot of times just moving these triangles a little bit closer together is all you need. Mess around with it. Shove the triangles all the way to the right. Then grab them and shove them all the way to the left. Get a feel for how making these levels adjustments affects your object’s contrast. Here are the levels before and then after I made the adjustments.
If you have more than one object you need to fix in your composite, just remember to clip each of the level adjustment layers to the object’s layer. Otherwise, you will pull your hair about trying to figure out why your settings keep changing.
Here is a simple animation showing the before and after.
That’s it for today’s post! For tomorrow, Lord willing, I plan on showing you a technique for shifting the direction of object’s surface shadows, so they appear as if they were created by the same light source as the rest of the image.
Keep learning and keep #SharingItForward,
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