How to Create Shadows in Product Photography

Stylized Team

Stylized Team

Cover Image for How to Create Shadows in Product Photography

The task of creating a shadow for a product image may seem simple, but it is actually a complex and challenging task for professionals in product photography. It requires advanced spatial thinking, knowledge of optics and light diffusion, and proficiency in image editing software. A well-crafted gradational shadow can add a 3D dimension to a product image. Shadows can enhance the product by making it look less flat, more lifelike, and credible. Without shadows, a product may appear unrealistic, unnatural, unattractive, and floating in an empty space. Adding a shadow gives it a sense of definition, making it seem more believable and trustworthy.

Creating effective shadows for product images is a complex task that requires advanced skills in photoshop and an understanding of light diffusion and optics. A well-executed shadow adds a 3D effect to the image and makes it appear more realistic and trustworthy. While not all product images need shadows, they can enhance photos of accessories, bags, cosmetics, or pinned or hanging products. On the other hand, ghost mannequin photos typically look better without shadows.

When and why to add shadows to your product images

  • A product image with a shadow appears more professional than one without.
  • Shadows add a natural and three-dimensional look to a product image.
  • Consistent use of shadows in a series of products contributes to a professional appearance and increases credibility and trust in the client's mind.
  • Natural-looking images drive credibility and raise purchasing intent, as quality photography is seen as vital by 90% of users and can lead to a 30% increase in conversions.
  • Shadows can give a product a sleek, fashionable appearance, as demonstrated in accessory and jewelry photography.
  • Shadows can also be used creatively to enhance a product's story and appeal.

Different shadows for different items

Natural shadows

The natural shadow is a quick and efficient fix in commercial photography as it requires minimal post-production effort. It is created when a single source of light falls onto a subject and casts a shadow on the surface behind the product. Photographers may use a diffuser or reflector to soften the shadow and make it less harsh, but still maintain enough darkness to create the illusion of depth. This technique requires a good understanding of the 3D space and position of the object relative to the light source, so a photo editor should have a fundamental knowledge of optics and shadow formation. In some cases, it is better to enhance the natural shadow than to design a new one in post-production. For example, a cap that sits on a surface will cast a complex shadow with a curved shape, different levels of darkness, and a gradual feathering effect, making it difficult to replicate. Similarly, a sneaker at a ¾ angle with an upward toe will have a multi-gradient shadow that is nearly impossible to recreate. Natural shadows are rarely used in jewelry photography because of the complexity of reflecting surfaces.

Figure 1: A natural product shadow from Figure 1: A natural product shadow from

Drop shadows

Drop shadows, on the other hand, are often used in furniture or shoe photography. This man-made shadow is designed to replicate the shadow created by the sun shining above, with the shade appearing directly under the object. When used for furniture, drop shadows create a feeling of the piece being placed on the floor and help bridge the gap between offline and online shopping by allowing the user to imagine the piece in their own home.

Figure 2: A drop shadow on flat lay from Figure 2: A drop shadow on flat lay from

Reflective shadows

Reflective shadows add a touch of glamour to beauty images and are commonly used in skin product and perfume photography. This technique creates the illusion of an object being reflected from a glossy surface, making the images look worthy of glossy magazine pages. Jewelry images and eyewear photography can also benefit from the use of reflective shadows.

The easiest way to get great shadows

We build Stylized, an AI powered tool that is revolutionizing the way shadows are created in product photography. Unlike traditional methods that rely on photoshop to make shadows, Stylized utilizes 3D rendering technology and realistic lighting to create natural looking shadows with ease. The tool is designed to produce high quality shadows in real-time, eliminating the need for any post-processing. With Stylized, photographers can save time and effort, while still producing professional quality images with accurate shadows. The tool's AI algorithms make it possible to create shadows that are natural and convincing, and the 3D rendering technology ensures that the shadows blend seamlessly with the product and the background. This makes Stylized an ideal tool for product photography, as it can produce realistic shadows that will help to make products look more professional and appealing to potential buyers.

If you’re interested in fixing your product images and adding shadows, don’t go out and spend hours learning photoshop or sending your products off to a photo studio - just head to and give us a try!


A choice to incorporate shadows into your product photography has significant effects, as consistency must be maintained across all platforms, including marketplaces, social media, and online store pages. This means investing in high-quality images that come with a higher processing time and cost per image. However, it also increases the likelihood of higher click-through rates and conversions. If you want a professional product photo vendor who can turn every pixel into improved e-commerce performance, look no further than Stylized. With experience serving over 1000 sellers, we’re confident we can help you achieve more sales with less effort.