How to Remove a Shadow in Photoshop

By Naomi Bolton

Photoshop can help you get rid of unwanted shadows that may otherwise ruin a good photo. The software allows you to make non-destructive changes to image files using adjustment layers and selection tools. By selecting and adjusting the shadowed parts of your photo, you can remove and blend these sections in with the rest of the photo. The results depend on the size and complexity of the shadow you want to remove, as well as the surface on which it is cast. The Content-Aware Fill feature is also useful for removing shadows.

Content-Aware Fill

Step 1

Open the image with the shadow you want to remove in Photoshop, and then press "Ctrl-J" to create a new duplicate layer of the image so that you can edit it in a non-destructive manner.

Step 2

Select the Magic Wand tool, and then click the shadow. Increase the tolerance value if not all of the shadow is selected; decrease the tolerance value if more than just the shadow is selected. Click the shadow again after adjusting the tolerance to make a new selection. Alternatively, use the Quick Select tool or Lasso tool to select the shadow.

Step 3

Click "Edit" from the menu bar, and then select "Fill." Alternatively, use the "Shift-F5" shortcut to display the Fill window.

Step 4

Select "Content-Aware" from the "Use" drop-down list, and then click "OK."

Step 5

Right-click the highlighted area and select "Deselect" from the context menu.

Adjustment Layers

Step 1

Open the image with the shadow you want to remove in Photoshop.

Step 2

Select the Magic Wand tool, and then click the shadow. Increase the tolerance value if not all of the shadow is selected; decrease the tolerance value if more than just the shadow is selected. Click the shadow again after adjusting the tolerance to make a new selection. Alternatively, use the Quick Select tool or Lasso tool to select the shadow.

Step 3

Click "Layer | New Adjustment Layer | Brightness/Contrast | OK."

Step 4

Click and drag the "Brightness" slider to the right to decrease the brightness of the shadow until it matches the rest of the picture; click and drag the contrast slider to the left in order to decrease the contrast between the shadow and the surrounding image.

Step 5

Create a new adjustment layer, and then adjust the hue and saturation if the brightness and contrast settings are not enough to match the shadowed area to the rest of the picture.

Tips & Warnings

  • With the Content-Aware Fill method, select the Healing Brush tool from the tool menu, and then hold down the "Alt" button while clicking an area of the images that matches the area around the shadowed parts the closest. Click and drag the cursor over the edges of the removed shadow on the duplicate layer to blend it in with the existing background.
  • With the adjustment layer method, select the Eraser tool with a hardness setting of "0%" and remove the areas around the shadow on the adjustment layers. Be careful not to remove too much, as the idea is to blend the adjusted sections in with the original image without the shadowed parts showing through.
  • Use the native PSD format with maximum compatibility enabled when saving your work to preserve the layers. Doing so allows you to easily tweak the image in the future.
  • Information in this article applies to Photoshop CC. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions or products.