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How to remove shadows created by on camera flashguns

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Category: Adobe Elements

How to remove shadows created by on camera flashguns - Pete Bargh uses Photoshop Elements to remove a picture spoiling flash shadow.

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When ever you use a flash that's built in to the camera or mounted on the hot shoe you are likely to see shadows on the background. In this article we'll show you how to remove them using Photoshop Elements
Words & Photo editing Peter Bargh

How to remove shadows created by on camera flashguns

Flash is a great aid when taking pictures in low light or indoors, but it can also introduce problems mainly when the subject is close to a background. This photograph is typical of the type you would take indoors. The girl and her dad are close to a wall and the flash, mounted on a hotshoe, is to the left when the camera is rotated for the horizontal format photograph. This creates a shadow of the subject on the background and the further away the flash is from the lens the worse this becomes.

You can do a few things to reduce the effect when you take the photo.

1 Ask the subject to stand further away from the background.
The shadow will disappear but the background may then become too dark.

2 Place a diffuser over the flash to soften the shadows.
You'll still see shadows, but they will be less harsh. The output of the flash will be reduced so you may get an overall dark photo.

3 Buy a small slave flash and set that up so it points at the background where the shadow is expected to fall.
This is the best option but you need to set it up correctly are the background could end up being too light. You also have to carry the extra flash around with you.

4 Switch the flash off and use ambient light.
That could result in a slow shutter speed and camera shake.

The picture can be rescued in your image editing program too.
We'll use Photoshop Elements 2.0 - a competitively priced program with a lot of features of its big brother Photoshop 7.0. If you have a different program you should still be able to follow the technique and use your program to make the changes.

How to remove shadows created by on camera flashguns What we need to do is to clone over the shadow area with the background. This is going to be hard because you cannot see where the shadow ends and the person begins. Worse still, neither can the Magic Wand tool! As you can see here using the Magic Wand has made the shadow and body become selected.

There is a way around this. Go to the menu Layer>New Adjustment Layer and choose Gradient Map from the list that appears. Click okay and then click on the Gradient used for Greyscale Mapping colour bar to call up the gradient editor.

How to remove shadows created by on camera flashguns From this select the black to white gradient preset (third from the left). In the area below the presets you will see the tonal range of the gradient is now black to white. Click on the white marker below the scale and drag it across to the left while watching your photograph. Drag back so that you can see a defined edge of where the body ends and the shadow begins.

Don't worry, this is not affecting the photograph just the adjustment layer above. When you are happy that you can see the edge click ok.

How to remove shadows created by on camera flashguns Now use the selection tools either the Magic Wand or Magnetic Lasso to select the shadow area. Once you have it all selected click the eye icon next to the Adjustment layer to turn it off and select the background layer.

Notice how the selection stays on the background even though you made it on the black & white adjustment layer. It may not be full accurate either. In this example we have a further amount of tweaking to do but at least we have the hard part finished!

How to remove shadows created by on camera flashguns Use the plus lasso to draw quickly and roughly around the area where the shadow wasn't selected.

How to remove shadows created by on camera flashguns Now Select the clone tool. Magnify the image and start taking detail from outside the selected area and cloning over the shadow inside the selection. The illustration here shows coloured rings around zones outside the selection that were used as cloning points and zones inside the selection where these points were cloned to. It also shows a rough start to the patch up job that took about 10mins.

How to remove shadows created by on camera flashguns

Use a small feathered brush for fine detailed areas and a larger brush for the areas such as the background yellow and red parts. Magnify the picture to concentrate on a small section at a time.

Once you're happy save the picture remove the selection and use small brush to tidy up any areas around the selection edges.

How to remove shadows created by on camera flashguns

I decided to go one stage further and clone out the clutter on the left and used the crop, transform and rotate tools to make the wallpaper border horizontal so it looks a little more upright.

Much better don't you think?

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