How to Kill the Shadow (… in Photography)

Me and photography – that is one romantic love story.

It all began about nine months ago when I started stealing my boyfriend’s ‘big’ camera. And let me tell you that he was all happy about it (where ‘happy’ stands for hurt, disturbed and angry). Anyhow, I kept stealing his big DSLR camera – no matter what – because that miraculous thing with a lens started to provide a great outlet for my self-expression and creativity. Oh, and my boyfriend, don’t you worry about him, he got used it (my left-hand punch is very famous; I can punch and run away very quickly… NOT!).

Of all the places that this wonderful planet offers I and my new camera decided to settle in the kitchen. And we’ve barely left that place ever since.

There’s just something truly special about the kitchen – to me it’s a place where magic happens. Whether it’s just the appearance of various kinds of food I admire or the experiments I make. Yeah, to me cooking and baking is one huge experiment. And I guess I am not the only one who feels the same way…

Taking pictures of it all even adds to that enormously enjoyable experience.

In the field of photography I’ve learned so much …and I am still learning.

For example, the shadow. I’ve learned that food, to be presented at its best, needs a sufficient amount of light. Soon I understood that it was very good to place the food that I was going to capture by the window.

But then there was this shadow.

When I studied some photos of other photographers I wondered how they got their meals so wonderfully and evenly lit from all sides. First I thought they must have used some kind of artificial light to achieve that. Stand light or something.

Okay, my boyfriend kept uttering something about reflectors and I, in return,  kept ignoring him (because I’m just the smartest and stubbornest person in the universe and have to learn my own way).

Anyway, there came the day when I stumbled upon a ‘light reflector’ discussion on the internet. And that was a big day for me.

It allowed me to move from this…

… to this.

With the help of my masterpiece – ‘a homemade light reflector’.

My pride and joy.

What this thing does, basically, is that it bounces back (or reflects) the light that comes from some light source (the window, in my case).

And yes, I made it myself (would you say that?). It only took some cardboard, some aluminum foil to cover the cardboard, something to tape these two things together and about 5 minutes of time.

Easy.

Please notice that I folded the aluminum-covered paper in the middle so that it stands upright.

Some grown-up people use fancy looking reflectors like this one.

Since I’m not a fully grown-up person yet I had to make my own reflector.

I placed the object between the window and the reflector…

… and got this result.

No shadow!

It works!

I’m so pleased.

This is another example.

A picture with the window light only.

And here is one with the window light and the reflector-bounced light too.

Doesn’t the strawberry smoothie look much more appetizing this way?

Here are the two pictures side by side for you to compare.

I hope this tip helps you in your ‘awesome-picture-making’ quest.

Now that I’ve won the fight with the shadow I can go and solve another 1200 questions I have about taking pictures.

I love that aspect of photography – there’s always something to learn and think about.

It never gets boring.

Amen.

See ya soon, dear friends.

Love,

Petra

61 Responses to How to Kill the Shadow (… in Photography)

  1. 1
    suzanna says:

    Dear Petra, thank you very much for such a simple tip! Shadows on my pictures keep annoying me, so now I can get rid of them. Great!

  2. 2
    Veronica says:

    Wow, I never thought getting rid of shadow could be so easy & cheap! Every single one my pics has shadow–thanks for the tip!

  3. 3
    Kristina says:

    Thanks for the tip!

  4. 4
    Kelly says:

    I’ve used a white foam board before but never the foil. What a great idea. I can’t wait to give it a shot tomorrow. I love practical…and inexpensive…and brilliant. Thanks.

  5. 5
    polwig says:

    Great tutorial. Thank you so much… I need to go build myself a reflector to get rid off all my shadows other then moving my food all over the floor trying to find “the right” spot

  6. 6
    UmSureOkay says:

    Photoshop.

  7. 7
    Becky says:

    Petra, you are brilliant! My husband is a professional photographer and mutters things just as your boyfriend does! (“light box” “fill light” “back lit” “bounce card”)

    I too ignore the mutterings, but dangit, I hate it when he is more right than I am! :)

    Thanks for sharing this trick of the trade.

  8. 8
    Shelly says:

    This is great!! Thankyou!!!!!! :)

  9. 9
    Memoria says:

    Hah! Cute tip! I use my white binder, which helps most of the time, but not all the time. I will try this out as soon as I get some cardboard haha.

  10. 10
    Karina says:

    I’ve been using white foam core- but I love this idea of a free standing foil reflector. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

  11. 11
    Ron Merlin says:

    Love your post, and love the homemade reflector. I also, have delved into some “homemade” photography things for my blog.

    Check it out….

    http://themerlinmenu.blogspot.com/2009/03/macro-photography-light-box.html

  12. 12
    ingrid says:

    Hey, Petra thanks so much! I’m gonna make myself one of those fancy schmancy reflector. I have a white board thingy that came with my ego light but perhaps yours will work better.
    ~ingrid

  13. 13
    Jane Ko says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for this tip!

  14. 14
    kaitlin says:

    Thanks for the great tip! I’ve just been using a white board to bounce light back into my shots… This looks like it works much better!

  15. 15
    Debs says:

    Brilliant, thanks. Me & photography seem to be brain dead LOL.

    My photos are rarely, if ever, accepted by such sites at tastespotting etc because of poor lighting, etc, etc.

    I’ve recently made a lightbox which is helping greatly, but now I can reflect too & lose the shadow.

    Thanks for helping me feel I am getter better results.

    Right, I’m off to make a reflector!

  16. 16
    Monika says:

    Thanks for the tip. This is so helpful!

  17. 17

    I can’t wait to try this out. That shadow has always bothered me. Thanks for sharing.

  18. 18
    Jen says:

    Wow! Thanks for this simple tip. Your photos are great!

  19. 19
    Tenina says:

    Great…loving your home made reflector…as you will see (if you visit my site) I really needed to read this excellent post!

  20. 20

    I literally just started taking photos yesterday – now I’m ahead of the curve! Thanks for the tip!

  21. 21

    You probably have NO idea how much you’ve helped me out with this post! Awesome, I’m so glad I stumbled upon it! I am excited to go home and try it now (:

    Thank you thank you thank youuuuu

  22. 22
    Anna Chen says:

    Utterly, utterly brilliant. *applause*

  23. 23
    kjanzen says:

    i feel like you’re giving away secrets that i am not allowed to know about! i love it! great tips.

  24. 24
    Jane says:

    Petra, you were born to explain this stuff to us. You never sound like a know-it-all. I feel so much better reading your photo advice than I do reading the evil photography book lurking on my bookshelf. It was written by a robot.

  25. 25

    thank you! I’m like you, I like to figure it out on my own, until I read posts like yours. I read on another site that he likes to use white foam core board. I’m going today to get some, as my small and flimsy pieces of watercolor paper are just not cutting it. I’m definitely going to try your aluminum idea. More light reflection. Yay! thanks.

  26. 26
    a says:

    You might want to either change the material you use for your reflector (both mylar and flat white paint will give better results) or reverse the aluminum foil (the hazy side reflects light more evenly than the shiny side.)

  27. 27

    Nicely done!! We will have one of these by days end!! =)

  28. 28
    Sílvia says:

    Wohoo!!! This must be my greatest photography discovery this year! I can’t wait to try it out, thanks for the tip! :)

  29. 29

    very nice tips… thank you Petra :)

  30. 30
    Nik Nik says:

    Hey Petra, your food and your photos look delicious. Thank you so much for the tips…

  31. 31

    Wow! You’re so crafty! I really need to create a lightbox or something for my photos. The natural light in my kitchen sucks, and all the counters/cabinetry, etc. is very dark. I have a nice camera but my photos aren’t coming out the way I’d want them to. Any tips on creating a lightbox?

  32. 32

    You are AWESOME! I love your own personally built light reflector and learning through your easy peasy tutorial. :) Where did your post go about How to take the grey out of pics on photoshop? Thanks.

  33. 33
    Atalaya says:

    Try white foam board instead of foil. It will reflect much softer light, as opposed to using a silver reflector, which is much more harsh.

  34. 34
    CulinaryRD says:

    yay- looks simple enough, gonna go try it right now! Thanks a bunch!

  35. 35

    […] cake was placed between a south-west window to the left and my homemade silver reflector to the […]

  36. 36

    […] what I own is my home-made silver reflector (you can find its heart-touching story here). And then I have one window. And then I have some white paper that I duct taped to the wall and to […]

  37. 37

    […] natural (window light from left, homemade silver reflector from […]

  38. 38
    Laura says:

    I love this idea and it seems so easy to make! I will have to try it out because I have huge problems with shadows when I take pics of my recipes in my gloomy kitchen.

  39. 39

    […] (To learn more about my quest against shadows have a look at this.) […]

  40. 40

    I just discovered your website and I’m soooo very glad I did! I had no idea a reflector is A) so important and B) so easy to make!! My blog is new and all I can afford right now is to just use my point-and-shoot camera and my photos suffer greatly. I’m so excited to try this!!

    If you have any tips (off to search your site after this comment!) on how to create natural light when my home has none, I’d love to hear your advice!

    ~Lauren

    • 40.1
      zoomyummy says:

      Hi Lauren, and welcome!

      Hm, I always try to use natural light, even if it lasts short and it’s not so bright. These winter months are really tough. What I do is that I use my silver reflector, I edit a lot, and then, I sometimes use Ego Lights (they are small lights for photographers, you can find them on Amazon).

      Enjoy your blogging journey. It’s a great fun, isn’t it?

      Petra :)

  41. 41
    Micael Cano says:

    This was so enjoyable reading! Thanks so much for this post!

  42. 42
    C says:

    I’ve been wondering and wondering about how to get rid of shadows. My place isn’t great for natural light, but this will certainly help. Many thanks!

  43. 43
    Jenn says:

    YOU. Are a goddess. Thank you so much for this post – my problems are solved!

  44. 44
    Zeynep says:

    Perfect! I’m going to try out your home-made reflector and probably send a silent “thank you” your way every time I take that perfect shot!

    Can’t help but wonder if a mirror might do the same job?

    Anyhow, once again, thanks for the great idea!

  45. 45
  46. 46

    OMG! that is sooo ingenious/smart! LOVE your website :)

  47. 47

    […] How to Kill the Shadow (… in Photography) […]

  48. 48
    Tania says:

    Hahaha your post made me laugh! I really enjoyed reading your post. I will try it out myself :D

  49. 49
    gghie says:

    You are one brilliant being! ;)
    Thanks!
    This is very helpful for us do-it-yourselfers.

  50. 50
    Robyn B says:

    Yes, the shadows are killing my photos! Thanks for sharing – in the 12 or so months I’ve been blogging, my photos have progressively got better. Now to kill the shadow. Thanks again

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