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how to remove a shadow in photoshop

How to Remove a Shadow in Photoshop

by Elizabeth Kosowesky on Sep 16, 2019

Shadows happen naturally when light is cast onto an object. The intensity of the light will determine how prominent the shadow will appear. Shadows may become an issue in your photographs when they are distracting or obscure detail from the scene. This is when knowing how to remove a shadow in Photoshop is vital.

Follow these tips on how to successfully know more about shadows in photographs. In this article, we’ll cover:

  • The Effects of Removing a Shadow in Photoshop
  • Easiest Ways to Remove a Shadow in Photoshop
  • Steps to Removing a Shadow in Photoshop
  • The Best Tutorial for Removing a Shadow in Photoshop

To learn how to remove a shadow in Photoshop, you’ll need to have downloaded the program.

If you don’t already have it, you can get Photoshop through Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan. This bundle also includes Lightroom for a total of $9.99/month.

Effects of Removing a Shadow in Photoshop

Lessening the appearance of shadows or removing them can improve a photograph. Removing harsh shadows from a photo can seem as easy as a click of the mouse. But how can you edit your photo realistically?

Realistically Remove Harsh Shadows in Photoshop

Knowing how to remove harsh shadows is an important aspect of photo editing. If you overcompensate when adjusting shadows, the edit will be noticeable. Be aware before removing shadows so that your photographs do not appear as if something is missing. 

Lessen a Shadow Effect in Photoshop

You can try lowering the Opacity or the Blend Mode to lessen the intensity of your edit. The Opacity controls the intensity of the edit, while Blending Modes offer more options for blending edits with the image. Playing with the Blend Mode or Opacity with the adjustments can include more details depending upon the photograph.

Easiest Ways to Remove a Shadow in Photoshop CC 

Learning the easiest techniques to eliminate a shadow will make a creative’s photo editing process quick and easy.  

Best Shadow Removal Techniques in Photoshop

Photoshop Elements is an easier approach to shadow removal than Photoshop for those just starting with Adobe products. This program is a simplified version of Photoshop. Starting with Photoshop Elements can be useful, and you can upgrade once the you master the simplified tools.

Shadows are each uniquely different and will require a different process. In some cases, drop shadows will have a color cast making the process harder to execute.

Completely removing the shadow is the easiest way to deal with color casting, but if a shadow needs to be lessened, then a different process will need to be done.

You’ll want to learn how to create a layer mask when working in Photoshop. Masks can be used with different tools and allow you to make non-destructive, or impermanent, edits.

Tools to Remove Shadows in Photoshop

There are quite a few tools that can be used to remove or lessen a drop shadow in Photoshop. The Clone Stamp and Patch Tools, rather than the Quick Selection Tool, are best for the job. 

Some suggest using tools such as the Pen Tool or Magic Wand Tool to complete this type of task, but they may make the task more complicated.

Steps to Removing a Shadow in Photoshop

Follow these easy steps to remove a shadow in Photoshop, and the task will be done in no time.

Removing a Shadow Without Losing Detail

Retaining the detail of a photograph is key to photo editing. 

In cases where the area you’re editing is a consistent pattern, like grass, the Clone Stamp Tool is ideal. In general, the Stamp is a better option for replacing details within photographs. Here are some basic steps on how to use the Stamp Tool:

First, open a photo into Adobe Photoshop. We’ll be working with this one:

Concrete building with dark shadow of a person on the back wall
Photo by Rene Böhmer via Unsplash
File >> Open in Photoshop

Double-click on the original photo to reveal the New Layer window.

Layers panel in Photoshop

In the window that opens, select OK.

New Layer dialog box in Photoshop

Now, right-click on the Background to reveal a menu. Select Duplicate Layer.

Duplicate Layer option circled in red on Photoshop's right-click menu

Select OK when the Duplicate Layer window appears.

Duplicate Layer dialog box in Photoshop

On the left side of the workspace, locate and select the Clone Stamp icon to reveal a side menu. Now, select the Clone Stamp Tool.

Photoshop's Clone Stamp Tool selected and circled in red

With the duplicate selected, locate the bottom of the Panel. Select the New Layer icon.

New Layer icon circled in red from Photoshop's Layers panel

Notice the changes in the Panel. Now we’ll be working in a separate layer from the original image.

Newly created layer circled in red in Photoshop's layer panel

Locate the top of the workspace with all of the Clone Stamp Tool customizing options.

Clone Stamp Tool options in upper toolbar in Photoshop

Select the Brush Tool icon to reveal a brush menu.

Clone Stamp Tool brush options icon circled in red

Since the wall in the image is cement and made of different rough edges, adjust the brush size to 100px and hardness to 0px.

Clone Stamp Tool size and hardness circled in red and set to 100px and 0% respectively

Set the Mode to NormalOpacity 100%, Flow 100%, and select the Aligned box.

Clone Stamp Tool's mode, opacity, flow, and alignment box circled in red.

Now with the keyboard, hold Option and select an area to copy to then be placed over the shadow with the Clone Stamp.

Close up of the shadow on the wall in the original photograph. Shadow's face is transparent after using the Clone Tool.

Avoid creating a “copy and paste” look by duplicating smaller amounts of space with the Clone Stamp. Once completed, the shadow should disappear from the photo seamlessly.

Original photo minus the shadow.

Using Photoshop’s Patch Tool to Remove Shadows

The Patch Tool makes selections easier to create, no matter what you want to remove from an image. In this example, we’re using a reflection in place of a shadow to show the tool’s range of capabilities.

First, open your photo in Photoshop. Here, we’re using this image of a flower.

Original photo of a daisy and its reflection in a puddle of water
Photo by Duncan Sanchez via Unsplash

Double-click on the file to reveal the New Layer window and select OK

Layers panel in Photoshop

Now, right-click on the original photo to reveal a drop-down menu. Select Duplicate Layer

New Layer dialog box in Photoshop

The Duplicate window will appear, then select OK.

Duplicate Layer option circled in red from Photoshop's right-click menu

Locate the band-aid icon on the left side of the workspace.

Duplicate Layer panel in Photoshop

Select the icon to reveal a drop-down menu and select the Patch icon.

Patch Tool icon circled in red on Photoshop's left-hand toolbar

Locate the top of the workspace to customize the Patch. Select the New Selection icon.

Spot Healing Brush Tool options in upper Photoshop toolbar

Select the Patch as Normal option and set the new selection as a Source.

With your mouse, circle a section of the the photo you want removed. By removing the reflection in sections, we can apply different patterns.

Daisy's reflection in water circled using the Patch tool
Portion of daisy selected in the previous image is removed

Now, drag and release the mouse. Notice how the circled area changes. Photoshop gives a preview on how the new selection will align with the rest of the photo.

New selection of the remaining daisy and its removal

Repeat this process until the entire reflection or shadow is removed.

Edited photo of the daisy minus its reflection

Best Tutorial for Removing a Shadow in Photoshop CC 

Learning a new task in Photoshop can be difficult. When starting in Photoshop, learning the correct process to complete a task and all of its complexities is important to become more skilled in digital photo editing.

How to Replace Colors in Photoshop is a great guide that will assist on correcting a color cast so that it doesn’t have a colored hue that stands out from the rest of the photo.

How to Replace an Object’s Background in Photoshop will show you how to extract a shadow and place it on a different canvas.

If you enjoyed this Photoshop tutorial on removing shadows from photos, follow us on Twitter or Facebook. We promise there’s more photography tips and photo editing tutorials on the way!

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