If you have muddy flat lays with lots of shadows I have two easy DIY techniques that you can use to reduce the shadows in your flat lay images and give you light, bright photos.
It’s the middle of winter here in Perth. And by the middle of winter I mean it’s the middle of July. We’ve had a few cold nights and it’s rained for about a week so it has been pretty mild overall. We have had a lot of overcast days though and that’s troublesome when you’re trying to take photos indoors with only natural light.
Limited sunlight means having to be closer to the windows to get a light, bright image, and being closer to the window means harsher shadows from the light that is coming in. On days like this, I often retreat upstairs to my studio but I do have two cheap and easy techniques for you to try at home to get light, bright images on dull, cloudy days… Reflection and diffusion.
Reduce shadows in your flat lay images by using a reflector
A reflector bounces the light back onto your subject. Your reflector should be white and at least the same size as your subject to be the most effective. As mentioned in my 5 tips for the perfect flat lay post Coreflute sheets (also known as signboard) are PERFECT reflectors. I use them for every shot I take. The ones pictured below are $5ea from Bunnings. Score one side and you can create a V flat (photographer speak). This essentially lets it stand up by itself (handy!) and will reflect light from two directions back onto your scene (bonus!). Set it up on the opposite side to the window, as close to your subject as possible without being seen in your frame.
Reduce shadows in your flat lay images by using a diffuser
A diffuser scatters the light to soften it. White sheer curtains are perfect diffusers and if I wasn’t renting I would cover all my windows in sheers. I just love the soft, glowy light. As an alternative to renovating your window coverings though you can buy photography light diffusers from a camera store (~$50) or eBay (~$20). The one I have comes as a 5-in-1 kit with the diffuser and a black, white, silver and gold reflector so they are good value for money. Or you can buy a cheap white plastic shower curtain! See how I used one in this post.
Simply put the diffuser between your subject and the window. You’ll immediately see a softening of the light and the shadows disappear, magic.
You’ll notice in both examples above a have also used a reflector in addition to the diffuser. This is standard for me. The better lit the subject, the crisper the image, so I do all I can to reduce those shadows and make the background look white. You’ll also see that I very much work from home. I use bulldog clips and string and my daughter’s chairs to prop up my tools! So these are definitely techniques that you can replicate at your home too.
If you’re still having trouble getting a clean, bright look even after reducing your shadows, you may like to read my post that uses these techniques to get a light, white background (still just using your phone).
Please let me know how you go utilising these tools. Tag me on Instagram (@ajharringtonphotos) or post your before and after shots on my Facebook Page or below. I look forward to seeing your new found light modifying skills!