How to Remove Shadows in Lightroom

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When shooting real estate photos in brightly-lit conditions, you may find that some parts of your image have a dark and shadowy appearance. Learning how to remove shadows in Lightroom will help you remove these shady areas and improve the picture’s overall quality.

How to Remove Shadows in Lightroom 

Shadows are common when shooting outdoors due to light not hitting all parts of your image at the same intensity. Shadows can still appear on your photos even when using flashlights and diffusers. However, it’s possible to make adjustments in the post-production phase and remove them in Lightroom. 

Man taking photos of a woman running in a pavement

Adobe Lightroom is a versatile image organization and photo manipulation software that can work with RAW files and other compressed formats such as JPEGs. However, it’s advisable to shoot and edit RAW files as they contain lots of information from the camera sensor that you can manipulate.

Open the Photo in Lightroom

Regardless of the Lightroom version you are using, you will need to import the photo from the camera or hard drive before working on it. You can also have the photo imported directly to Lightroom if you are shooting tethered.

If you are importing the photo from your computer’s hard drive, ensure you are in the Lightroom’s Library module and then click on the Import button located around the bottom-left area of the interface. You can also navigate to the File menu and choose Import Photos and Video. 

On the left side of the interface, click on the Source panel. Since you want to remove shadows in a single photo, untick the All Photos option. Depending on your photo organization, you might also need to select the Add option so that Lightroom can index the photo in the selected catalog. 

Adjust the Global Sliders

In most cases, you can remove shadows by adjusting the global adjustments. Click on the Develop panel, choose the Shadow slider, drag it to the right, and increase it to +100. Although this depends on the image you are working on, decrease the highlights to -50. 

Decrease the contrast to improve the details and the original highlights of the image concealed by the shadows. Slightly increase the exposure to balance out the effects of decreasing the highlights. However, be careful not to increase the exposure too much as it may burn out the image.

However, if the photo is complex and you did not get the desired results by adjusting the sliders, you can make some local adjustments to the shadowed regions of the photo.

Use the Lightroom Adjustment Brush Tool

The brush tool comes in handy when editing specific parts of your image. You can locate the Brush tool on the upper part of the Develop panel. Depending on the size of the regions you want to edit and how heavy the shadows are, you can use the following tips to set your brush.

Woman using her laptop to edit photos
  1. Set the brush size to be almost the same size as the region you want to remove the shadows. Usually, you can change the brush size using the mouse’s scroll wheel or by hitting the right bracket, key ] to increase it and hit the left bracket key [ decrease it
  2. Increase the brush feathers to +100, so the brush is soft enough for smooth and seamless transitioning from the masked region to the rest of the photo.  
  3. Switch on the Auto-mask by selecting the checkbox located around the bottom area of the Brush Tool panel. The auto mask will help you create an automatic virtual mask for limiting your adjustments
  4. Increase the Shadows to +100 
  5. Although it’s not a must, you can hit O on your keyboard to switch on the overlay. The overlay allows you to see the areas you are brushing, helping you keep track of the painting. 
  6. After setting the brush, zoom in on the area with the shadows you want to remove. Usually, zooming in gives you a clearer view of your edits to ensure the blending is seamless.
  7. Begin brushing on the shadows until the entire shadow area is covered. 
  8. Turn off the overlay to see whether the transitioning looks realistic and natural without sharp edges. 
  9. Depending on the overall exposure of the photo, you might need to increase the exposure using the slider. However, be careful not to increase the exposure too much as it gives your image an unnatural look.

Refine the Local Adjustments

If the Auto-Mask feature was on and you were cautious when using the Brush Adjustment tool, you can skip this step. However, you may find that the brush tool is accidentally touching some regions of the image that did not require editing. 

In this case, you need to switch your brush mode to erase. Switch off the Auto-Mask feature and Turn on the overlay. Using the feathered edge of the brush, brush over the region you didn’t want to paint.

Adjust the Color Temperature

In most cases, an image shot in brightly-lit conditions has brighter areas with a distinct color temperature than the shadows. If you brighten up the shadow regions, areas that were initially bright may appear warmer in color tone than the shadow regions you brightened.

In turn, this makes the image look unnatural. You can fix this by selecting the Brush Adjustment tool. Click on the Temp slider at the adjustment settings and drag the temp slider to the right-hand side. 

Typically, the right-hand side contains the yellow color, and increasing it helps to increase color warmth in certain regions of the image. Generally, using the Temp slider to adjust color temperature ensures the regions you brightened blend more naturally with the rest of the image.

Use the Range Mask Technique

The range mask technique allows you to get rid of the brush adjustments from the brightest regions of your photo depending on your image’s luminance value. Lightroom uses this technique to calculate the luminance value of the image and controls the regions that the edits will affect.

Photo of a family walking on a beach with visible shadows

Navigate the Develop Module and click on the Graduated Filter option. When the Range Mask menu pops up, select the Luminance option to mask some regions of your image depending on their brightness value. 

Keep in mind that you will need to edit and apply adjustments such as exposure, whites, and clarity on the areas after masking. Usually, this option is an easier masking method for beginners as they don’t have to decide on the areas to work on.

Fine-Tune the Color Vibrance

Even after editing and blending the shadowed regions, a keen eye can notice the difference, especially when zoomed in. The best way to refine everything is to enhance the vibrance of the entire image. 

Click and drag the Vibrance slider to the right-hand side and be careful not to drag too much as it can destroy the aesthetics of the image. 

Once satisfied with the results, save the image file. Export the just edited image by going to File, selecting Export, choosing the location to export to in the hard drive, and then clicking the export button.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Add Shadows in Lightroom?

You can add shadows in Lightroom by going to the Options panel and selecting the Cast Shadow checkbox on. Radius is how soft and large the shadow looks, Opacity regulates how dark the shadow is, Angle allows you to select the direction of the shadow, and Offset allows you to choose the distance of the shadow from the photo.

How Can I Capture a Photo Without Shadows?

The most effective way of capturing photos without shadows is to ensure sufficient lighting. For instance, you can shoot in good ambient lighting or set up several flashlights to illuminate your subject from multiple angles. 

Final Thoughts

Even with the best camera and high quality lens, it’s not uncommon to shoot shadowed photos, especially if the lighting is not uniform. Knowing how to remove shadows in Lightroom will help you brighten the shadows and seamlessly blend them with the rest of the photo.