How to Reduce Shadows in Photos


Well-positioned shadows can create stunning effects in photography, but misplaced shadows -- like across someone's face -- can ruin an otherwise great photograph. Direct sunlight and a bright flash in a dark room are the two main culprits when it comes to unintended shadows. Using reflectors and a bounce flash can solve these problems, but you don't always need expensive equipment. Simply looking at the light you have to work with before taking a photo goes a long way to getting a great shot.

Things You'll Need

  • Camera
  • External flash unit
  • Reflector
  • White cardboard
  • Ask your subjects to stand near the middle of the room, rather than against a wall. When your subjects are close to a wall, their shadows will be projected behind them. Move your subject to at least 6 feet away from the wall to reduce this effect. The extra space will allow the shadows to fall on the floor behind them.

  • Use the bounce-flash technique. When using a camera with an external flash unit, position the flash head to shoot the light at the ceiling. By bouncing the light off the ceiling and allowing it to flow over your subjects, you will reduce the amount of shadows.

  • Take your subjects outside. Photograph them in the shade, so the lighting is even. Photographing your subject in the bright sun will produce shadows on their face. Choose a spot under a tree, in the shade of a building or anywhere outside on an overcast day.

  • Open the curtains if you are taking a photo indoors so the natural light of the sun can illuminate your subjects and the room behind them. This should give you a good exposure without using your camera's flash.

  • Shoot close-ups. If you are not able to position your subject, try to shoot so you can crop out the background and the shadows. Zoom in on the face, rather than try for a full-length body shot.

  • Purchase an inexpensive reflector at a photography retail store. Reflectors are collapsible so they are easy to transport. Use the reflector to bounce light back into the scene to help fill in shadows. This works particularly well when reducing shadows under the brim of a baseball cap or cowboy hat.

  • Grab a large piece of white cardboard to serve as a reflector or shade if you don't have a reflector. This is useful in the bright sun when taking a photo of someone's face. Ask the subject to hold the reflector below his face to reflect light upwards, reducing shadows under the nose and eyebrows. Alternatively, ask someone to hold the cardboard, which reduces shadows.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are unable to reduce shadows while taking the picture, you can often reduce them using a good photo editing program. Free photo editors include GIMP, Fotor and PhoXo.

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  • Photo Credit Gabriel Moisa/Hemera/Getty Images
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