Learn How to Photograph Heart-Shaped Shadows in Books

Heart-shaped shadows are a great photography subject, and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, now is a great time to experiment for that perfect heart-shaped shadow.

A heart-shaped shadow is created with a wedding ring.

Photos via Boost Your Photography

Supplies and setup for photographing heart-shaped shadows

The supplies for shooting heart-shaped shadows are simple. You need your camera, a larger book and a circular object to cast the shadow. Rings are a popular choice, especially in wedding photography, but photography filters are another great option. Colored filters add a little extra flair by casting a colored shadow.

If you are using natural light, it is easiest to shoot heart-shaped shadows early in the morning or late in the day, when you get strong directional lighting from the low angle of the sun. This makes for longer and more dramatic shadows. Shoot near a wide window or sliding glass doors for maximum effect. Try to position your book in a way to avoid window panes casting their own shadows in your composition.

How to take photos of heart-shaped shadows in books

You can also create shadows using your own lights. This setup used a basic adjustable desk lamp with a piece of black fabric wrapped around the sides to make the light more directional. This created a stronger shadow in the book. Do not use a setup like this for a very long period of time, as these cheap types of lamps can get very warm.

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The upside of using a desk lamp is that you can reposition it at will to create different sizes and shapes of shadows. Shooting with the light higher up with lead to a shorter, more squat heart-shaped shadow, while shooting with the light lower down will create a longer, skinnier shadow.

The final trick is keeping both the book and the ring or filter in place. With the setup shot above, you can see that I simply used a glass candle holder to prop up the side of the book with fewer pages. Shooting right at the middle of the book eliminates this problem, but if you want to feature a particular page you may need to prop the book up. As for the ring or filter, you might want to try using a tiny amount of removable craft putty for stability.

Suggested settings

The exact settings for shooting heart-shaped shadows will vary depending on the quality and strength of your light source. Many heart-shaped shadow shots are photographed at a fairly wide aperture. This makes the words outside the area in focus blurred and keeps the eyes attention on the heart itself. If that is your preference, shoot in aperture priority mode. Keep a low ISO value (like 100) and let the camera pick an appropriate shutter speed.

Two different types of focus to photography a heart, shadow.

Both of these red heart-shaped shadows were shot at similar wide apertures (f/2.2). In the left-hand version, the focal point was set at the base of the heart, which results in most of the words past and inside the heart being blurred. In the right-hand version, the focal point was set at the base of the filter, so many more of the words within the heart are legible.

Wedding photographers often choose to highlight a passage from the Bible was that used in the ceremony or discusses love. In these types of situations, you want to use the placement of your focus point to keep those words in focus, or you can use a narrower aperture to extend the depth of field of the image. You may need to use a tripod in that case, if your light source is dim.

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