Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

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Lighten Shadows in Photoshop
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Highlights and Shadows are essential parts of a good photo because they add depth and interest. However, if they are too harsh, they can also be distracting and hide details of your scene.

Therefore, learning how to balance light in post-processing is one of the most essential skills for any photographer. Photoshop offers many tools that can be used to correct and adjust highlights and shadows. Using the Levels and Curves adjustment tools seems the first choice of many photographers. However, if you slide the midpoint of the Levels to the left, the entire image will lighten up, rather than just the shadows. Curves also face a similar problem.

In this article, I’m going to show you how to lighten shadows in Photoshop using three different techniques, and with detailed examples.

In the first technique, we use the shadows/Highlights adjustment layer, in the second technique, we will select the darkest area (shadows) of the photo, and then we will use one of the blending modes (Screen) to lighten the shadows.

Finally, in the third method, we will use the Camera raw filter to lighten the shadows. I think it is worth saying that these methods can be used together. Let us begin!

Useful shortcuts

  • Duplicate a layer: (Ctrl + J)
  • Select the highlights: choose channel and click Ctrl + RGB
  • Invert a selection, click (Ctrl + shift + I)
  • Save the selection in a new layer: press (Ctrl + J)
  • Invert the mask: (Ctrl + I)

 

Method 1: Shadows/Highlights adjustment layer

The Shadow/Highlight command is one method for correcting photos with strong and harsh shadows. It can also be used for brightening areas of shadow in an otherwise well‑lit image. The Shadow/Highlight command does not simply lighten or darken an image; it lightens or darkens based on the surrounding pixels in the shadows or highlights.

You can access the command by clicking Image > Adjustment > Shadow/Highlight

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

The command has the following sliders and options

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

  • Amount: Controls how much of a correction to make.
  • Tonal Width: Controls the range of tones in the shadows or highlights that are modified. Smaller values restrict the adjustments to the darker regions for shadow correction and the lighter regions for highlight correction. Larger values increase the range of tones that are adjusted further into the mid-tones.
  • Radius: Controls the size of the local neighborhood around each pixel. Neighboring pixels are used to determine whether a pixel is in the shadows or highlights. Moving the slider to the left specifies a smaller area, and moving it to the right specifies a larger area.

Example 1

I will use the following image

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

Step 1

Open the photo in Photoshop, and Duplicate the background layer (Ctrl + J)

Convert the layer to a smart layer

Step 2

Open Shadow/Highlight adjustment layer by clicking Image > Adjustment > Shadow/Highlight

Make sure that the Preview option is selected in the dialog box if you want the image to be updated as you make adjustments.

Adjust the amount of lighting correction by moving the Amount slider or entering a value in the Shadows or Highlights percentage box. Larger values provide either greater lightening of shadows or greater darkening of highlights. You can adjust both Shadows and Highlights in an image.

The before & after images are shown below

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop


Method 2: Using blending modes and channels

In This method, we will select the darkest area (shadows) of the photo, and then we will use one of the blending modes (Screen) to lighten the shadows.

Example 2

I will use the following image

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

Photo by ?? Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Step 1

Open the photo in Photoshop, and Duplicate the background layer (Ctrl + J)

Step 2

In this step, I will separate the subject from its background

Click a selection tool, then click Select and Mask, and then click Select Subject

Make sure to select output to Layer Mask, press O.K

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

Step 3

To select the highlights, choose Channel

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

Hold Ctrl and click on the RGB channel

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

Step 4

To select the shadows, invert the previous selection

Press Ctrl + shift + I

Save the selection in a new layer, press Ctrl + J

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

Step 5

To lighten the shadows, change the blending mode to Screen

The before & after images are shown below

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

Method 3: Camera raw filter

In this method, I will use the Camera raw filter to lighten the shadows

Example 3

I will use the following image

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

Photo by Imansyah Muhamad Putera on Unsplash

Step 1

Open the photo in Photoshop, and Duplicate the background layer (Ctrl + J)

Convert the layer to a smart layer

Step 2

Open the Camera raw filter by clicking Filter > Camera raw filter

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

Drag the shadows slider to the right to reduce the shadows

Step 3

Invert the mask automatically generated by the camera raw filter click (Ctrl + I)

With the mask selected, use the brush tool with white color to reveal the areas where you want the filter to be applied.

The before & after images are shown below

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

 

Another example

The original Photo by Ehsan from Pexels

The before & after images are shown below

Lighten Shadows in Photoshop

Related posts

What Are The Selection Tools In Photoshop?

Blending Tool In Photoshop Explained- Understanding The Blending Mode

 

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, in case you have any questions just drop them below & I will be happy to answer you.

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4 Comments

  • I have a lot of friends who are into photography so I know that they will appreciate this post. I know that they are always looking for ways to better their pictures and by doing so they will gain more clients. So I will be sure to pass it around, they will appreciate it 

  • Hey,

    I am not a photographer myself, but I do like to look at beautiful photos. For example, your opening photo (at least in my opinion) is a bull’s eye. Black and white photos can be so attractive after all!

    So: all your interesting tips for working with Photoshop and optimizing your photos are definitely recommended for novice (as well as more experienced) photographers. I myself am very self-taught and if I was interested in photography I would have already started to try out your tips. It seems challenging.

    Very nice work!

    With best regards,

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