Reducing the harsh shadows and blown highlights

     One of the most important things in photography is not to have harsh shadows and blown highlights. Instead, the shadows need to be soft so they don’t take the attention of the observer away. In order to have balanced shadows, you have to take the control over the light. Have you ever looked in your shadow when you are outside in summer time around noon? It’s so harsh because there is only one powerful source of bright light (the sun). In contrast, if you take a look at your shadow when is cloudy you can see that the shadow is soft. That’s because the sun ray’s are diffused when passing through the clouds, so instead of having one powerful light source that casts light from one side, you have beautifully balanced light that makes your shadow soft.

     In stock photography when taking pictures you have to make sure that the light around the subject is balanced. There are couple ways of achieving this goal and that’s with using light tent, soft box or umbrella.

     The light tent usually is a cube made from white fabric that diffuses the light. One of the sides is attached with Velcro, so the object can be put inside the tent, and has an opening for the camera. For getting soft shadows there should be two or three reflectors around the box. If using two reflectors, they should be put from the left and right side of the box. For three reflectors configuration, the third reflector should be placed behind the box or placed above the box depending on the desired light effect. When the light passes trough the fabric it gets diffused and gets all around the subject so the shadows are very soft and there are no blown highlights because the light is even. The light tent is often used for product photography. It’s easy to set up, lightweight, comes in different sizes, and takes very little storage space because it collapses into compact size. On the internet you can find instructions how to build it by yourself but I recommend on finding one on ebay or other auctions as is not expensive. If you build one it won’t be collapsible and will take to much space.

     Another method of reducing the harsh shadows is by using a soft box. The soft box is made from fire resistant material that is reflective from inside. In the center of the box is located a light source which is usually tungsten light bulb (hot light) or fluorescent bulbs (cold light). The front side of the box is covered with white fabric that has a function to diffuse the light. Soft boxes are mounted on light stands and usually are used in portrait photography. For more balanced shadows is best if used in pairs, located at 45 degrees from the subject. They come in different sizes and have three forms: box, rectangle and octagon. When buying soft box make sure that you have heavy duty light stand that will support it.

     The final most often used technique for reducing the harsh shadows is by using a photographic umbrella. The umbrella is also made from fire resistant material and it comes in silver, gold, and white reflective colors from inside with black backing. The light source can be bounced of the umbrella or it can pass through depending on the desired light effect. Same as the soft box the umbrella is usually used for portrait photography. When using umbrella the subject will be little bit in sharper focus than the subject where the soft box was used because the light intensity bounced from the umbrella is stronger and brighter. The umbrellas are often used on weddings for taking portraits because they are light and easy to move and work with.

     It’s a good practice before buying elsewhere first to check on ebay or other auctions because you can always find good deals there.



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