Create a Quick Drop Shadow in the Print Module


The Print Module has gotten better since Lightroom 1. But not by much. While great enhancements have come to the Develop Module and the Library Module, the Print Module still lacks many features. One of those missing features is the drop shadow. There is no way to put a drop shadow behind an image directly from the panels. However, if all you need is a simple graphic drop shadow, here is quick way to accomplish that.

Start in Photoshop

You will need to have a solid black image in your Catalog to start. The simplest way to do this is to fire up your favorite image editor (Photoshop in this example) and create one. Don’t worry about proportions since you can fill a cell with the image. Use the File > New menu to bring up the new dialog.


Make sure your background color is set to black before creating the new image. Here we’re creating an 800 px by 800 px image filled with the background color. Once that opens simply use the Save for Web menu to save a full quality JPEG. Then import that new JPEG into your Catalog.

On to the Print Module

Position your cell on the page and drop your image into it.


Hold down the Option key (ALT key in Windows) and drag a copy of your cell in the direction you want the drop shadow to appear.


Drop the all black image you created earlier onto this duplicated cell.


At this point the drop shadow is in front of your image. Right click on the cell and choose Send Backwards from the contextual menu.


You’re done! The drop shadow is now behind your image where it belongs.


Things to Consider

There are a few issues with this method that you need to remember:

  • If the drop shadow is really close to the image it may be hard to grab and move. To get around this you can send the image backwards, move the shadow, then send it backwards again.
  • You cannot add borders or strokes to your image since the drop shadow will also get these enhancements and this will ruin the illusion.
  • If you do this to add drop shadows to multiple image cells expect to play around with positioning since every cell (drop shadows included) move independently.

If you want to have a softer drop shadow or one that is not altered by strokes and borders then the Identity Plate is the way to go. But that takes more planning in order to get the proportions correct. For that I would recommend Bob DiNatale’s excellent article. Even though it’s from 2009, the methodology is still sound in Lightroom 4.

I hope that the Print Module gets some attention as we move towards Lightroom 5. It has the potential to be a very powerful layout tool. The Lightroom team is hard at work improving the application and I’m sure the Print Module has its advocates.

Thanks for a Great Year!

As the year comes to a close I would like to thank you all for spending some time here at Lightroom Secrets! I enjoy your feedback and the many conversations I’ve had with readers offline. I wish you all a wonderul holiday season and a happy and successful new year!