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How to Remove Shadows in Photoshop

Published: 20/05/2021

Harsh shadows are one of the most unwanted outcomes in a photo that is captured in broad daylight. Sometimes, they may add to the image’s appeal, but mostly they obscure essential details which we need to recover. Learn how to remove shadows in Photoshop using multiple methods so that you can bring improvement to your images.

How to Remove Shadows in Photoshop Using Various Methods

Certain effects in brightly lit images are unavoidable, shadows being one of them. In real estate photography, where your prime focus is to show a property’s best possible view, shadows can be a hindrance, due to which even the most attractive property may look gloomy. Here is where photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop comes into play.

Although it is an undeniable fact that you cannot get rid of shadows completely, there are editing features that can reduce shadows to a great extent. Adobe Photoshop CC has a comprehensive set of tools that help you significantly recover details otherwise hidden by harsh shadows.

Removing Shadows Using the Blending Mode

This technique uses two very useful features of Photoshop combined together to solve the issue of shadows in the image below. One is the selection of RGB using Channels, and the other one is Screen blending mode.

  1. Choose an image from which you want to remove shadows, and open it in Photoshop.
Choosing an image from which you want to remove shadows
  1. Select the Channels panel on the right-hand side. If you can’t see the panel, go to the Window menu, and make sure Channels has a checkmark beside it.
  2. Press and hold CTRL (Windows) / CMD (Mac) and click on RGB to select areas in the image based on the luminosity. This is a very useful feature as it selects the bright areas of your image. 
Click on RGB to select areas in the image based on the luminosity in Photoshop
  1. As in this image, we need to select the dark areas of the image. We will Inverse the selection. You can do it by pressing CTRL + SHIFT + I (Windows) or CMD + SHIFT + I (Mac). Alternatively, you can go to the Select menu and choose Inverse. This step actually selects all the shadowed sections where you need to work.
  2. Press CTRL (Windows) / CMD (Mac) + J to duplicate the layer. It will form a separate layer of the dark areas selected, making sure any effects you apply will only impact the shadows.
  3. Select the Blending Mode to Screen. The screen mode brightens the dark areas as soon as you select it.
  4. Doing so will solve your issue to a great extent. You can see that there is a significant difference between before and after views. However, if you still see some dark areas which need some extra brightness, use the brush tool to do that.
Selecting the Blending Mode to Screen in Photoshop to remove shadows
  1. Create a negative mask by pressing and holding ALT (Windows) / Option (Windows) and click on the Create a mask icon found at the bottom of the Layers panel.
  2. Select the Brush Tool from the toolbar. 
  3. Make sure that the foreground color is set to white, and then paint the dark areas with your brush. This will further reduce the shadows by brightening the affected areas.

Removing Shadows With The Dodge Tool

Photoshop’s Dodge tool is highly effective in tackling shadows. Also, the process of dodging the shadowed areas is straightforward, although it may take a bit of your patience as you need to zoom in to apply the effect accurately.

  1. Open the image that has important details obscured by shadows.
  2. In the layers panel, click on the background layer and make a duplicate of it by pressing CTRL (Windows) / CMD (Mac) + J. Making a duplicate would ensure non-destructive editing besides letting you see the before and after view (by hiding the duplicate layer).
  3. Select the Dodge tool from the toolbar on the left-hand side.
  4. Go to the Range, and select Shadow. Set it below 50% at first. You can change this range later if required.
Changing range to Shadow and Exposure to 50%
  1. Paint over the areas from where you need to reduce the shadows. You can always undo this effect by pressing CTRL / CMD + Z. Or, go to the Edit menu and click on Undo Dodge Tool.
  2. Much of the shadows from your subject will be reduced using this method, revealing appealing details. 

Shadow Removal Using Patch Tool

Another Photoshop tool helpful for shadow removal is the Patch tool. It is used on images where a shadowless area matching the shadowed area is available. Basically, Photoshop will replace a shadowed patch with a well-lit patch seamlessly via the Patch tool.

  1. Open the image that needs shadow removal in Photoshop.
  2. Right-click on the background layer in the Layers panel, and click on the Duplicate layer.
  3. Now select the Patch tool from the toolbar on the left-hand side.
  4. In the drop-down menu, click on the Content-Aware option. This will ensure seamless blending of selection with the surrounding area. 
Clicking on the Content-Aware option
  1. Make a selection around the shadows, and move it to a different background section. 
  2. Select a surface without shadows to let Photohop refer to the color and pattern that it needs to fill in the blank space.
  3. After the shadowed area has been replaced with the brightened area, you can use the healing brush to clean up any mess and further removal of shadows. 

Using Adjustment Layers to Remove Shadows

  1. In Photoshop CC, open the image that has unwanted shadows which you need to remove.
  2. Create a Duplicate layer of the Background layer by pressing CTRL (Windows) / CMD (Mac) + J or by right-clicking on the layer and clicking on Duplicate Layer.
  3. From the toolbar on the left-hand side, choose the Magic Wand tool.
  4. Click on the shadowed area in the image.
  5. Up on the Magic Wand settings, choose the tolerance value according to shadow selection. Increase it if all shadows aren’t selected, and decrease if more area beside the shadow is selected.
  6. Click on the Layer menu, and select New Adjustment Layer.
  7. Choose Brightness/Contrast from the expanded menu, and click on OK.
  8. Now click on the Brightness slider, and take it to the right to decrease the shadow. Adjust it until the shadowed area matches the rest of the image.
  9. Click on the Contrast slider, and take it to the left to manage the contrast between shadows and surrounding areas. 
Using adjustment layers to remove shadows
  1. After adjusting the brightness and contrast, you might need to create a new adjustment layer to set the Hue and Saturation. 

Read our article on how to remove shadows in Lightroom!

Takeaway 

Dark shadows in the resulting image are mainly due to intense light falling upon the subject. Although shadows add a dramatic effect in some images, it mostly hides areas with specific details which are not what we actually want. Therefore, learning the Photoshop techniques explained above will help you deal with unwanted shadows effectively.

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