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Proper Shadows Make it Look Real

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"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" old time radio from 1930-1954. So what is this article really about? A lot of art work is too large to be photographed on a graduated background but needs to match previously photographed work for a consistent set of jury images. And it isn't necessarily a graduated background. It could be any background not large enough to place the work in front of for the photography. The largest size graduated background is 42" x 62" vertically.
If you're looking for instructions on how to cut a piece out of a background, I can't teach you years of Photoshop skills in this short article. But I will say that it needs to look absolutely perfect at full size or else the jurors will waste precious seconds trying to figure out what's wrong with the image.
I've seen a lot of poorly done selections where the edges looked jagged, or some of the piece had mysteriously disappeared from excessive use of the cloning or magic wand tool. Besides expert use of Photoshop to create perfect selections, it takes knowledge of how light falls on an object to create real looking shadows.
I recently photographed some mixed media pieces that were too wide for the background so I photographed them on white, cut them out, dropped them into a graduated background to match the artist's older jury images.

photographed sitting on white paper

cut out and dropped into a graduated background
shadows added to make it look like it was hanging on a wall

Though the piece was photographed sitting on a table, the shadowing was added to make it look as if it were hanging on a wall. You can see the difference in shadows if you look closely.
The first and third kaleidoscope images take you through what properly cut out art looks like dropped into a graduated background. The first image shows what you see if you select the art, then invert the selection and delete the information making the background transparent. Photoshop displays transparency with a checkerboard background. The photographer who took the pictures did a good job of extracting the kaleidoscope, which was actually five feet tall. But the photographer placed it into a background that didn't match anything and neglected to add shadowing so the kaleidoscope appears to be floating in the second image. The third picture has a much better background and shadowing has been added to make it look real. And if you think about it, the shadowing gives the impression that it is a large (five foot tall) piece.

kaleidoscope on a transparent background

dropped into a background without shadowing
so it looks like it's floating

kaleidoscope dropped into a graduated background
with shadows that makes it real

There are more examples on my fixing jury images page.


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