Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to Master the Heart-Shaped Shadow in Time for Valentines

Heart-shaped shadows are an easy and versatile way to create a memorable Valentines' Day photograph, and you can even print one to use as a homemade Valentines' Day card. This article will lay out the basics behind creating amazing heart-shaped shadows every time.

Supplies for Heart-Shaped Shadows

The supplies for casting and capturing heart-shaped shadows are quite simple: a larger-sized book with a lot of pages (large paperbacks are often more flexible) and a circle to cast the heart-shaped shadow. You can use any circular, see-through object to cast the shadows. Rings are popular choices, for their shape and romantic connotations. You can also use a variety of camera accessories that you might already have lying around. All of the heart-shaped shadows in this article were created with either a single extension tube or colored filters.

Technique and Timing for Heart-Shaped Shadows

The trick behind creating the heart-shaped shadow is shooting near a bright window in the early morning or late afternoon. You want direct light from the sun to create the strongest shadows, and the lower the sun is in the sky, the longer and more prominent the shadow. Right now, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, a south-facing window is ideal, as the sun is farther south in the sky and casts long shadows during much of the day. Consider also shooting near a glass sliding door or other large window without panes, so you can avoid having window-pane shadows cluttering up your image.

The photograph above shows one possible setup. (You can see I had to use a standard window and try to shoot around the window-pane shadows.) You want to use a large book, opened towards the middle, in order to get an even, symmetrical heart shadow. Here, I was using a Bible opened to the 1 Corinthians 13 verses popular at weddings. Since this is not near the center of the book, you can see that I used a heavy bottle to slightly prop up the pages on the right-hand side to better match the curve of the left-hand side pages.

Secret tip: you may need a little help getting your circle to stay upright in your book. The extension tube I used was wide enough that it could generally stand up and stay by itself without assistance, but the colored filters were much smaller and had a tendency to immediately fall over. I used tiny pieces of a product called Mini-Hold, a wax adhesive created to hold dollhouse furniture and accessories in place without leaving residue. Two tiny dots where the filter touched the book were enough to hold the filter upright and not be visible in the final photograph.

Strategies and Reminders

Spend some time thinking about which book and which pages you might want to use for this type of shot. Depending on your angle and aperture, it may be possible to emphasize certain words or phrases in or around the shadow. (This is particularly easy when using a ring to cast shadows, as the smaller heart draws more attention to fewer words.)

These two shots were both taken using the book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which is a heart-warming tale of love, childhood, and the bond between people and stuffed animals. I really liked the idea behind top choice, showing the older couple meeting and welcoming Edward, but I felt like the color picture was a bit overwhelming and competed for attention with the heart. The bottom version still gave a hint of the story, in the blurring words and black and white picture, but the empty space gave more emphasis to the heart. I ended up choosing the second image for printing and creating my own Valentines' Day cards.

Also be sure to consider your point-of-view and aperture. Experiment with different angles of shooting, including straight on and more off-centered. Try getting higher and lower and see how it influences the feel of the final shot. You should also try a few different apertures, both wide and narrow, to see how the different depth of fields (area of the photograph in focus) changes the feel of the final image.

No need to limit yourself to just one shadow, either! Have fun combining multiples and see what kinds of effects you can  create!

Bonus: Book-Heart Valentines' Day Idea

And, since you already have your camera and a large, floppy book out, why not try creating a heart-shaped book too? A large, paperback book works well, as you have lots of pages to work with. The trick here is finding the angle and heart-shape you want and then using a paperclip or small binder clip in the back to hold the heart-shape in place.

Did you try either of these techniques? How did they turn out?  Share a link to your final image or homemade Valentines below.

Want more great ideas?  Follow Boost Your Photography on Pinterest: Boost Your Photography

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