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How to Add a Drop Shadow in Photoshop

For product photographers, it might be challenging to connect viewers with their photos. If this is the case, knowing how to add a drop shadow in photoshop can take you several steps ahead in the run.

There are several qualities of a good product photo. For instance, good lighting and color, clear details, good composition, etc. But the effect that makes a photo realistic is adding a drop shadow.

Drop shadow effect doesn’t just give a realistic look to your image, it’ll grab the attention of your viewers. A lively image lets the customers relate their everyday life with the product. This way, those photos get a better reach and generate sales.

What is Drop Shadow?

Drop shadow, which is also called box shadow, is a visual effect that creates an artificial shadow of an object. Though this is not a real shadow, it looks like one. This effect is mostly used in commercial photography.

There are two kinds of shadows,

  1. Form Shadow
  2. Cast Shadow

Form shadow is the one that is created on the object itself. On the other hand, the cast shadow is created by the object, but not on the object. A cast shadow is the one that’s created on the surface.

Drop shadow is a cast shadow that is created with software like photoshop after taking the photo. This is positioned at the bottom of the object. It gives information about the space around the object as well as gives a three-dimensional look to the object.

Understand the Light and Shadow

Without understanding the light, you won’t get the right shadow too. Because light creates the shadow. So the nature of the shadow depends on the nature of the light.

How dark your shadow should be and at which angle you should place the shadow depends on the light you’re imagining. To know how to add drop shadow in photoshop, you need to learn the light too.

Understand the Light and Shadow

Several factors work behind the nature of the shadow, like the amount of light, the number of light sources, the distance between the light and object, etc.

Hard light gives a darker and sharper shadow while soft light gives a softer shadow. Also, you need to pick the right angle that goes best with your image.

Different surfaces reflect light differently. Before adding shadows in photoshop, have a close look at your image. Understand the light put on it while photographing. You need to keep the coherence between your object and shadow.

Tutorial: How to add a Drop Shadow in Photoshop

Photoshop has its own drop shadow tool to add shadow to image. If you click on ‘Layer’ from the layer panel, you’ll get an option named Layer style.

There you can find the drop shadow option and you’ll get adjustments like distance, shadow color, and many more. Many use photoshop shadow effect as it’s easier.

But there is a manual option too if you don’t want to rely on Photoshop’s own tool. And this is better because you get the freedom to make custom shadows according to your need.

Here, we’ll explain this process, which you can call the duplication method too. Here, I’m describing how to add a drop shadow in photoshop step by step.

Step 1 : Remove the Background

To add a drop shadow to your image, at first you need to remove the background. You can’t add a shadow without separating the object from the background.
So, pick the pen tool, zoom the image and do clipping in photoshop.

Pen tool

When you’re done with the clipping, right-click on your mouse, then select ‘Make Selection’.

Make Selection

Now add a layer mask. This will remove the background.

layer mask

Now, your image is ready for adding shadow.

Step 1 : Remove the Background

Also Read, How to Remove Background in Photoshop.

Step 2 : Create White Color Layer

Next, add a white layer below the background Layer. Click on Layer from the layers panel, select the new fill layer and then select solid color to add a white layer.
Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color

Step 2 : Create White Color Layer

Also Learn, How to Change Background Color in Photoshop.

Step 3 : Duplicate Background Layer

Duplicate Layer 0. You can use keyboard shortcut Ctrl+J to create this layer. Name it ‘Layer 0 Copy

Step 3 : Duplicate Background Layer

Step 4 : Set Foreground Color

Set the foreground color to black from the toolbar. You can do this by pressing Shift+X.

Step 4 : Set Foreground Color

Step 5 : Turn Copy Layer into Black

Select the ‘Layer 0 Copy’. Press Shift+Alt+Delete to turn this layer into black. This black image will work as a shadow later.

Step 5 : Turn Copy Layer into Black

Step 6 : Place the Shadow

Now press Ctrl+t for free transform. Click on the square and drag the black image down to cast a shadow. Press ‘Enter’ or ‘Return’ when you’re done.

Don’t forget to put the ‘Copy Layer 0’ below the Layer 0. While placing the shadow, determine the light direction first and then place it in the right position based on that.

Step 6 : Place the Shadow

Step 7: Apply Motion Blur

Apply motion blur by clicking on Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Set the angle to 0, adjust distance to smooth out around the shadow. Press Okay to apply.

Step 7: Apply Motion Blur

Step 8: Apply Gaussian Blur

Apply gaussian blur by clicking on Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the radius to 3 pix.

Step 8: Apply Gaussian Blur

Step 9: Add Layer Mask

Add a Layer mask to Layer 0 Copy.

Step 9: Add Layer Mask

Step 10: Swipe Brush on Shadow

This is the final round of adding shadow. Select the brush tool from the toolbar. Change the foreground color to white.

Now, you’ll have to swipe the brush on the shadow to give it a realistic look.

Step 10: Swipe Brush on Shadow

This is the part that determines the quality of your shadow. It‘s not a tough job to give a realistic look to your image, also not that easy. You need to have a clear idea on how you want your shadow to look like. Otherwise, you’ll only swipe your brush aimlessly without having any clue where to stop.

You actually need to find your own technique in this case. But, I can suggest you some basic tricks here,

  1. Keep your brush size bigger, it will help to maintain harmony all over the shadow.
  2. Swipe your brush from a distance so that the edges don’t look like clear lines.
  3. Change your brush opacity as you go up towards the object, because shadows will be darker near the area it was created.
  4. Keep a distance between the object and the shadow at the corner if the corner of the object is slightly up from the surface.
  5. Create a blurred shadow to make it look natural. 

Swipe Brush on Shadow2

You can try these tricks while creating your shadow but you still need to keep finding ways to make it better and look more realistic.

Keep in mind, different tricks will work for different kinds of images.

Drop Shadow creation Done

Step 11: Save the Photo

Save the photo once you’re satisfied with your shadow. Keep both PSD and JPEG format for future use. You’ll need a JPEG file to use online and PSD format will allow you to edit the photo anytime if you need it.

Step 11: Save the Photo

So, this is all you have to do to add a drop shadow to your image. Did you find it undoable? Guess not. But it’s common to feel stuck while working on photoshop. If so, don’t hesitate to outsource photoshop service

Also, it’s feasible if you edit just a few photos, but it might be difficult to do when you have a large number of images for your business. Take a chill and let our experts handle your images.

For more photoshop image editing tactics, keep your eyes on the Photoshop tutorials.

Also learn, how to edit product photos that drive sales

Why you Should use Drop Shadow Effect to Your Product Images

We need to add drop shadow when the original photograph doesn’t have enough shadow. This can happen in many cases while shooting photos in the studio.

Photo of a product on a simple plain background usually fails to attract the viewers. The most common reason is customers can’t find life in it. Adding shadows in photoshop has the potential to alter this situation.

So, this is essential for a product photographer to know how to add a drop shadow in photoshop.

First of all, a flat background photo doesn’t give any message about the space. When there is a shadow, we understand the product is on a surface. Also, it brings up the dimensions of the product as well as gives a clear idea of perspective.

Remember, product photos are one of the main deciding factors in buying a product. People hardly buy goods only based on descriptions.

They examine the photo to understand the product quality by checking the color, texture, size, shape. Moreover, this is important to engage customers with the photo you publish. Higher quality of product photos ensures the reliability of the brand.

To find the necessity of the product in their life, they need to relate themselves with the photo. Only then they’ll be interested in buying the product. Realistic and visually interesting images surely will drive sales.

Final Thoughts

Product photography plays such a big role in the eCommerce business as this creates the link between sellers and customers. To make the customers rely on the products, you need to impress them with the photos in the first place. Sharp, clear, high-quality images increase sales.

Photoshop drop shadow effect plays a vital role here to enrich the quality of the image. If you can add drop shadow to your image perfectly, your image will reach the next level with an own unique style.

Luis Ryan
Luis Ryan

Luis Ryan is a skilled graphic designer who helps clients of marketing and advertising agencies with his creativity in designing enormous expertise in photoshop. Before starting a professional career, Ryan has completely grasped Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and thus he is determined to become a versatile designer for clients.

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