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Learn how to use Lightroom with these tips on file management, preset application, and editing techniques for real estate photography.

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How to Remove Shadows in Lightroom

Published: 12/04/2021

When editing real estate photos, one of the elements you’ll likely need to adjust are the shadows. Harsh shadows can be distracting and can draw attention to areas of the image that are not meant to be the focal point. 

We’ll walk through how to remove shadows in Lightroom Classic to bring out the details in your image. 

How to Remove Shadows in Lightroom

There are six main sliders in the Basic panel of Lightroom’s Develop module that are used to reduce and remove the shadows in a photo:

  • Exposure
  • Shadows
  • Whites
  • Blacks
  • Contrast
  • Highlights

Most of the images with a slight issue of shadows will be easily fixed by adjusting these sliders until you get the desired results. However; some images require more work and detailed editing in specific areas to remove the shadows and to balance the overall look of the image. 

First, let us see how you need to adjust these sliders in Lightroom to clear away the shadows and brighten up any photo in general.

Step 1: Tune Up the Global Adjustment Sliders

  1. Launch Adobe Lightroom Classic CC.
  2. From the Library module, import the image that you want to work upon.
Import the image to remove shadows in Lightroom
  1. Click on the Develop module. This is the editing interface where you will do the actual work.
  2. On the right-hand side, you will see the Basic Panel with a number of sliders.
Adjusting sliders in Lightroom Basic Panel
  1. The first thing you need to do is bring up the Exposure slider a little bit. Resist increasing it too much as it will affect the image quality.
  2. Increase the Shadows by moving the slider to the right. You may be able to bring it up to 100 in some images, especially if they were shot in the mid-day sun. The image we are using below is the interior of a room where increasing shadows to an extreme was not required.
  3. Slightly increase the Whites and Blacks.
  4. Decrease the Contrast to bring out some details that were otherwise obscured due to the shadows.
  5. Try decreasing the Highlights slightly.
Adjusting the sliders to remove shadows in Lightroom
Before and after adjusting brightness and contrast in Lightroom

As you can see, we managed to remove the dark look due to the shadows by adjusting the basic sliders. However, the overall brightness and contrast need some improvement to make the image a bit more clear. 

Step 2: Balance the Other Sliders in the Basic Panel to Enhance the Contrast

  1. Adjust the Tone Slider and bring it to a yellower tone.
  2. Decrease the Tint Slightly.
  3. Come down to the Presence section of the Basic Panel.
  4. Adjust the Clarity and Vibrance to rectify the haziness caused by decreasing the Contrast and Highlights.
Adjusting the Tone and Presence to remove shadows in Lightroom

See how the above adjustments made a difference in the image. The shadows are significantly reduced. 

Before and after slider adjustments in Lightroom

Step 3: Use the Adjustment Brush for Specific Shadowed Areas

  1. Select the Adjustment Brush (located under the Histogram at right) from the Develop module. 
  2. Select an appropriate brush size. 
  3. Increase Feather to the maximum limit.
  4. Make sure the Auto Mask is turned on to avoid selecting unwanted areas in the image.
  5. Press O on the keyboard to turn on the overlay. You will now be able to see where the mask is being applied. 
  6. Here, we have masked the areas in the room where dark shadows were darkening the image. 
Using the Adjustment brush for specific shadowed areas
  1. Once you have applied the brush to the specific shadowed areas, it’s time to turn off the overlay by pressing O and make the adjustments.
  2. Bring up the Exposure and Shadows slightly.
  3. You can also increase the Contrast in the selected area. 
  4. In the end, adjust the Sharpness slider.
Before and after using Global adjustments and Adjustment brush to reduce shadows in Lightroom

With most photos, the process stops here. With the help of Global adjustments and the Adjustment brush, you will successfully remove the shadows without affecting the image quality. The following two steps are optional depending upon whether the image requires further enhancement and balance. 

Step 4: Use the Split Toning Panel to Enhance the Contrast

The Split Toning panel in Lightroom can bring remarkable changes in an image affected by dark shadows. 

Split toning panel in Lightroom

If you think that adjusting the basic sliders and using the adjustment brush has affected the color of the image, fiddle with the split toning sliders until you see a noticeable improvement. Adjusting these sliders will change the feel of your image without affecting the natural tones.

Step 5: Fine-Tune the Vibrance to Balance the Overall Tone

The last final touch that might be necessary for outdoor shoot photos is to bring up the Vibrance slider a bit to balance the desaturation. After that, you can view the before and after image by clicking on YY. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between Shadows and Blacks in an Image?

In order to get the hang of image editing, you need to know the difference between black areas in an image and shadows. The shadows are areas that dim essential parts in your image but still show some details. 

On the other hand, blacks are totally dark areas where we are not able to see anything else. Treating the black areas like you are instructed to do for shadows won’t bring any significant changes.

Do We Need to Go Through All of the Steps Mentioned Above to Remove Shadows from Any Image?

Our primary goal in photo editing is to bring about changes without making them obvious. If you feel that the shadows have been removed during any of the above-mentioned edits and there is no need to do anything else, you can skip the steps mentioned after that. Otherwise, you may end up with a photo that looks heavily edited and unnatural.

Read our article on how to remove shadows using Photoshop!

Conclusion

The prime purpose of removing shadows in a photo is to make it appealing by bringing clarity and brightness. In some photos, the process may last a few seconds, whereas you need to dig deeper into the Develop panel features to fix the issue for some really gloomy images.

We hope that this detailed guide on removing shadows in Lightroom Classic CC will make the editing process easier for you.

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