Make Photos Jump Off the Page With Drop Shadows

Since the time of the Greeks, artists have used frames to change the appearance of their pictures. If your photos live mainly on your computer, you might not traffic much in real frames anymore. A while back, I showed you how to "Add Frames and Borders to Photos." This week, I want to show you a more subtle approach: Adding a drop shadow effect to the edge of your picture.

I am not a fan of gaudy, colorful frames, but I love drop shadows. They elevate the photo off the page (or off the screen) and give the image a little extra life without distracting from the image itself. And in Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, drop shadows are only a few clicks away.

Finalize Your Photo

To get started, open a photo in Photoshop Elements. Make any changes you want to the photo--tweak the colors and exposure, for example--and then crop the image to your satisfaction. To crop the photo, click the Crop Tool (tenth down from the top of the toolbar on the left side of the screen). Click and drag to specify a crop box in the image, then double-click to make your choice.

Turn Your Photo Into a Layer

Because the drop shadow effect is designed to work on a layer, we need to promote your photo to layer status. To do that, find the Layers palette on the right side of the screen and double-click the image, which should currently be identified as "Background." The New Layer dialog box will appear.

Click OK. Notice that your image is now a layer, indicated by the name Layer 0 in the Layers palette. You can change the name of the layer if you want to, but since this is the only layer we're working with in this week's project, that's really not necessary.

Expand the Edges

We're almost read to add drop shadows. Before we do that, though, we need to expand the canvas around the edges of the photo. If we tried adding drop shadows now, it would have nowhere to go. It's like like trying to make a painting bigger after we'd already painted all the way to the edges of the canvas.

In the menu, click Image, Resize, Canvas Size. We want to make the canvas a little bigger, so switch the unit of measure from inches to percent, then enter 110 in both height and width. Click OK.

You should see that the canvas has expanded by 10 percent, and there should be a transparent border around the edges of your photo.

Add Some Drop Shadows

Now it's time to experiment with drop shadows. In the Effects palette on the right side of the screen, click the Layer Styles button (second from the left) and then choose Drop Shadows from the menu. Now you can drag any of the drop shadow presets from the palette to your photo. If you don't like the one you dragged, replace it with another.

When you find one that suits your image, save your finished product. Here's an example of a photo with drop shadows.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This Week's Hot Pic: "My Sunshine," by Sherry Petreus, Los Angeles

Sherry took this photo with a FujiFilm S5100 and then added a distinctive vignette effect using Photoshop Elements.

This Week's Runner-Up: "The Last Holdout" by Jenapher Henslee, Auburn, Washington

Jenapher writes: "I took this photo during a snowstorm on Christmas Day with my Nikon D40x. I don't know how the leaf got there, but I wanted to capture the juxtaposition of seasons."

See all the Hot Pic of the Week photos online.

Have a digital photo question? Send me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have the Digital Focus Newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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