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Shadow Options For Accessories: Purses & Handbags


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Refine your purse product photography with these three simple shadowing techniques

A great way to increase the effectiveness and professionalism of your product images and provide customers with high quality product viewing experiences is to add shadowing to your product photos

In product photography there are three major types of shadows and each one can add a different effect to your images: natural shadow, drop shadow, and reflection shadow. It may be hard to choose which shadow to use. To ease this decision, keep in mind, each shadow style is unique and can equally benefit your product images.

There is no right or wrong shadow type; just select your preferred shadow style according to what you like the best and stick to it so that your entire inventory appears clean, well organized and consistent. Play a little with the shadow options. Don´t be afraid of experimenting!

The following tutorial will provide a step by step guide about how to correctly create each of these three shadow types in Photoshop by using the example of a product image of a purse:

Original Purse

Consistent Alignment: A Must in e-Commerce

One major factor to consider when creating product images for your online portfolio is alignment. Whether you have a small or large inventory, remember to lit, cropped, sized, and aligned every single one of your images in the exact same way.

Keeping all of your product photos consistent is incredibly beneficial for the professional appearance of your site. Your ultimate goal should be to create a seamless online shopping experience for your customers and this begins with a commitment to consistency.

The following online retailers have all followed the right way to consistent alignment. Their product pages look amazing and professional. Take a look!

Example of a consistent and aligned product listing at BimbayLola.com

Example of a consistent and aligned product listing at BimbayLola.com.

Example of another professional and perfectly aligned product listing at Mango.com

Example of another professional and perfectly aligned product listing at Mango.com.

Shadow Style #1: Natural Shadow

Natural shadow can provide an incredibly subtle and becoming effect if the technique is executed correctly. In the image below, the shadow is only barely visible beneath the purse, but it provides drama nonetheless, and it’s one of the easiest shadowing techniques to master and to photograph. You will only need to use one light source for this photography lighting technique, although using a reflector on the “darker” side of the product is never a bad idea!

Purse nature

This video tutorial will show you how to properly create natural shadows in your product images. For your convenience, we have also included the written steps below:

  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 purse layer that you have two purse layers.
  4. Make a tight selection around just the purse 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 purse itself in your selection, you may need to invert your mask to make sure that the purse is what shows instead of the background.
  6. Change the duplicate purse layer to “multiple” in the top left tab of the layer dialog box.
  7. Create a mask layer on your middle purse multiplied layer and Pixelz by brushing away the background except the shadow under the purse. Use a feathered brush to keep everything smooth.
  8. Flatten your layers.

Shadow Style #2: Drop Shadow

Drop shadows give the illusion that a product is being photographed from above by imitating the shadowing that happens when direct sunlight is shining down on an object. Drop shadows can be beneficial on smaller items like clutches and smaller flatter purses but may look awkward with larger more duffel bag purses. In these instances, I would consider photographing them upright and utilizing one of the other shadow options.

Purse drops shadow

This video provides step by step instructions to add a drop shadow into a product image, but if you would rather follow written steps, we have also included them below.

  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 purse 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 purse itself in your selection, you may need to invert your mask to make sure that the purse is what shows instead of the background.
  5. Double click the purse layer so that the “Layer Style” window pops up.
  6. Check the “drop shadow” box. A shadow will appear.
  7. Tweak the opacity of the shadow until it best suits your aesthetic preferences.
  8. Change the angle in which the shadow falls until it matches the direction of light that you can see on the product. Pay special attention as well to the distance from the shadow to your product and the size of the shadow. All of these will be determined by the direction, distance, and angle of your light source.
  9. Select “OK.”
  10. Flatten the layers.

Shadow Style #3: Reflection Shadow

A reflection shadow is a refined shadow that adds drama to a product image. Reflection shadows make your images look as though they were photographed on a reflective surface, providing a vague reflection of the product below.

Purse reflection

If you like the look of the reflection shadow in the image 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 purse layer that you have two purse layers.
  4. Make a tight selection around just the purse 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 purse itself in your selection, you may need to invert your mask to make sure that the purse is what shows instead of the background.
  6. Rotate your duplicated purse layer 180 degrees (upside down, vertically). You should now see two purses between the two layers: one right side up and one upside down.
  7. Align the bottom of the purses together so that it looks like the upside down purse looks like a reflection of the purse that is right side up.
  8. Add a mask to the upside down purse 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 purse is nearest to the bottom of the right side up purse and that the least opaque part is farthest away from the purse. This will help to create a natural reflection that falls off the farther it is from the product.
  9. Brush out the sides and top of the purse around the reflected purse’s base. Continue to tweak your reflection, brushing out more or adding more back in to make it look most natural.
  10. Flatten the layers.

Adding realistic and consistent shadows to your product images will improve your customers’ viewing and shopping experiences and of course, will definitely encourage them to purchase your products.

These three image editing techniques may seem like a lot of extra work, but once you have learned the process, they shouldn’t require more than a few minutes of your time. That’s a small price to pay to have a sharper online product inventory and, ultimately, bigger profits!