Henninger column: The shadow knows

On the left, a photo with a traditional half-point frame. On the right, a photo with a soft drop shadow.

During the past few years — and only for certain clients — I’ve been suggesting they get away from the traditional half-point frame for photos.

The option I recommend is a photo frame with a soft drop shadow.


A few reasons:


Not many other newspapers use this approach, so the new look makes you stand out—especially if you’re in a community where you’re competing against another paper. It’s certainly an idea to consider if you want to redesign.


Readers may not be able to articulate the difference, but the soft shadow tends to make your photos just a bit more friendly, more comfortable to look at.


Some editors may think the soft shadow takes away from the impact of a hard news photo, such as a fire or an auto accident (or the mug shot of a serial killer!). That’s OK—you can drop the soft shadow on such photos if you wish. But for most photos in community newspapers, a soft shadow frame will do just fine.


The soft shadow helps push the photo off the surface of the page, giving the photo a bit more impact. The half-point frame doesn’t do that.

Here’s a suggestion: Try the drop shadow look on an upcoming photo page or in a special section. See how it looks to you. Does it give you a feel you’d like to see throughout your entire publication? If so, you know what to do.

And another suggestion: Don’t use the InDesign default specifications for the shadow. Those specs create a shadow that’s too dark, too big.

Here are the specs for the shadow on the photo with this story

Blending mode: Multiply

Opacity: 50%

Distance: Ignore. Offsets will create distance.

  • X Offset: 0p3
  • Y Offset: 0p3
  • Angle: 135º
  • Size: 0p5

Disregard other options.

One last detail: If you’re placing a photo with a soft shadow at the right edge of the page, be sure to nudge it left about a pica. Otherwise, the shadow may fall out of the print area, leaving you with no shadow at all.

The soft shadow photo frame can give your newspaper a more comfortable, more friendly design. It’s worth a look.

ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the Director of Henninger Consulting. On the web: www.henningerconsulting.com. Phone: 803-327-3322.