Tutorial: How to Remove Shadows in Lightroom

Have you ever wondered why some parts of your images look dark and shadowy even though you were shooting in bright light? This happens because light doesn’t hit all areas in your photo the same way, causing some parts to be darker than others, which then results in your images having a range of light and dark tones. However, these dark tones can be just shadows or blacks. The difference lies in the amount of brightness and details in them. Shadow areas might look dull, but there are details hidden under them, whereas in black areas, all details are lost. However, during post-production, you can retrieve any details hidden under shadows and also modify the contrast in your image. So if you want to know how to remove shadows in Lightroom and improve the quality of your pictures, this blog shows you how in 5 easy steps.

How to Remove Shadows in Lightroom in 5 Easy Steps

1. Make Global Adjustments Using Sliders

Using highlights and shadows sliders in Lightroom to make adjustments
Image Courtesy of @photography_by_orlando

If you want to get rid of shadows in Lightroom, start by making global adjustments to your image, and using sliders is the easiest way to do it. If there are only subtle shadows in your image, you can go to the Shadows slider in the Basic Panel of the Develop Module and drag it to +100. You can even use this step for every photo you import into Lightroom. But if the shadows were underexposed when the image was first taken, this step might create unwanted noise. Contrary to RAW images, JPEGs will usually show noise in the shadows with a minor shadows adjustment. You can follow these steps to reduce the noise in your photos. Also, increasing the Blacks slider might help with saving shadow details.

Another thing you can do is decrease the Highlights. Drag the slider down to -50 and see if the results work for you. You can also increase the Exposure to balance out the effect of the Highlights. When you decrease the Highlights and increase the Exposure, the luminance value of the brightest parts in your image will come closer to the darker areas in it.

You can keep making the adjustments to get desired results, but these sliders have limitations. If you don’t get the results you want by using the sliders, you can go ahead and make local adjustments.

2. Remove Shadows in Lightroom With the Brush Tool

Using the brush tool in Lightroom
Image Courtesy of @photography_by_orlando

For local adjustments, you can use the Brush Tool to edit specific areas of your image. In the Develop Panel, you will find the Brush Tool near the top. Next, you will have to load your brush with the right settings so that you can remove shadows from your photo. Start by moving the Feather slider to +100, then turn on Auto-Mask. Next, increase the Shadows to +100 with the help of the slider. In the end, turn on the Overlay by pressing the O key on your keyboard. This will help you see the areas where you used the brush.

Now, start brushing on the darker or shadow areas of your image. Using the shadow adjustment will help ensure that you don’t go too far with your edits and that only the darker parts of your photo are affected. Once you are done brushing, you can turn off the Overlay to see how your image looks. If you are not satisfied with the result, you can increase the Exposure using the slider. But be cautious as you use this tool as it can give an unnatural look to your photo when not used in the right amount. So before you try the Exposure slider, you can duplicate the brush effect by making adjustments to Shadows.

3. Erase to Perfect Brushed Areas

Sometimes, you might forget to turn on the Auto-Mask feature and accidentally use the brush on those parts of your image that don’t require any edits. In this situation, you would need to change your brush mode to Erase. With the Auto-Mask still turned off, you will have to turn on the Overlay and then brush over the areas you don’t want to be affected by your edits.

Related Read: How To Install Brushes In Lightroom

4. Fix Color Temperature

Infographic stating check your color temperature after making edits

A photograph taken in harsh lighting could have different color temperatures in its bright and shadow areas. So if you try to brighten up the dark or the shadow areas in such images, the original highlights or the areas that were already bright in that photo might end up looking much warmer compared to the shadow areas you brightened later. This can make your photo look heavily edited and unnatural. You can avoid this by selecting your brush adjustment once again and use it to increase the warmth in specific areas in your image. To do this, use the Temp slider in the White Balance section of the Basic Panel. To make your image’s highlights and shadow areas blend more naturally, move the Temp slider to the warm or yellow side.

5. Range Mask to Protect Highlights

Infographic stating when you find deep shadows in your photos, edit them in Lightroom

If you think your edits could affect the bright areas or the highlights of your image, you can use the Range Mask technique on your brush adjustment. In the Develop Module, you will find the Graduated Filter tool right below the Histogram panel. When you click on the Graduated Filter option, you will see a Range Mask menu pop up. Select Luminance from the menu. The Luminance option will let you mask parts of your photo based on their brightness value. This way, you will be able to protect the highlight or bright areas of your image, especially when you decide to use the exposure slider as a part of your brush settings.

Further Read: How To Sharpen Images In Lightroom

To learn more about image editing, you can go to the Lightroom & Photoshop Tips section of our website. At ShootDotEdit, we love sharing tips and tricks that help you hone your craft. We also aim to lessen your post-production workload with our professional photo editing services. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans.

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