How to fix the harsh lighting to soften shadows

Light is the core of photography and affects our photos in many ways. As a photographer, you may know two terms: hard light and soft light. Hard light and soft light create different qualities of shadows and transition between bright and dark. Hard light makes sharp edged shadows with abrupt transition. Soft light makes soft shadows with gradual transition. How hard or soft the light presents is determined by the size of the light source relative to the subject being lit. The bigger the light source is, the softer the light is. The smaller the light source is, the harder the light is. The sunlight is considered as a hard light source because it is far from Earth and its relative size to the subject is small. Clouds create a diffusion between the sun and the subject and scatter the sunlight, making the light source relatively larger. Therefore, the sunlight is hard light on a sunny day and soft light on a cloudy day. Sometimes, you want to use soft light, which is more flattering than hard light, but you are in a hard lighting situation because of the weather or some factors else. So, the photo you take will have an edgy look and distinct differences between bright and dark. This is when you need the help from some software tools to fix the harsh lighting. There are lots of photo editing software programs with soft lighting adjustment. But many of them are not designed for novices in photo editing and very difficult to use. If you are looking for a simple tool to handle the task, please continue reading the article. In this article, I will introduce a beginner-friendly photo editor you can use to soften the edge of the shadow in your photo.

Photo Effects by Vertexshare

Fix the harsh lighting with Photo Effects

With a suggestive name, Photo Effects by Vertexshare is a handy photo filter app. The app enables you to make great looking photos by using various decorative objects and parameters.

After launching the program, you will be greeted by a simplistic window. It consists of three panels. A series of predefined effects are located in the left-side panel. You can apply them to your photo with ease. After the image is loaded into the program, you will see the small preview thumbnail of each effect. The middle panel takes up most of the window. It is the preview area where you can preview the changes you make. Here you can compare the differences between the original photo and the changed photo, zoom and pan the photo, and discard all changes. A variety of parameter adjustment sections are located in the right-side panel. You can adjust the exposure compensation, exposure compression, lightness, saturation, and contrast. Moreover, you can adjust the shadows/highlights, tone mapping, high dynamic range, and image sharpening. Other adjustable parameters include white balance, channel mixer, soft light, vignette filter, local contrast, and vibrance. Furthermore, you are also given the possibility to reduce the noise level.

On the whole, Photo Effects is a piece of minimalistic photo effect software. It allows you to apply effects to your photo in an instant to enhance your photo. Thanks to the intuitive GUI and options, Photo Effects can be easily mastered by all types of users.

Let's dive into the part of how to soften shadows by using soft lighting with Photo Effects.

How to soften shadows by using soft lighting with Photo Effects

Step 1.

  • Throw your photo onto the area "Drag and Drop Your Photo here". Or click on "File"->"Add Photo" to add your photo. You can also add the photo by clicking on the "Add" button on the top menu bar. If you import the wrong photo into the program, click on the "Remove" button to remove the photo.

Step 2.

  • Navigate to the right side panel and scroll down to the "SOFT LIGHT" section. Click on the "SOFT LIGHT" button to activate the function of adjusting the parameter.

Soft Light

Hard light produces a high contrast look. This function can be used to reduce the high contrast. Decreasing the value will lower the contrast and make the edges of the shadows softer.

  • Drag the strength slider to adjust the effect to fit your needs. You can click on the "View button" to compare what the photo had looked like before you made adjustments with what it looks like after making adjustments. If you want to readjust the effect, click on the "Redo" button to discard the adjustments.

The "SOFT LIGHT" section of Photo Effects

Step 3.

  • When you finish adjusting the effect, press "Export Photo" to export the photo to a desired location. You can also click on "File"->"Save As" to save the photo into a destination folder.

An alternative to Photo Effects

Fix the harsh lighting with LunaPic

LunaPic is a browser-based photo editing app. This feature-rich app comes with an assortment of filters and effects to make your photos stand out. One of its photo enhancement utilities is soft lighting. UsingĀ  soft lighting of LunaPic to fix the harsh lighting is as easy as falling off the log.

How to fix the harsh lighting with LunaPic

  • Click on the "Upload" button at the top-right corner. Click on "Choose file" to upload your photo.
  • Move the cursor to the tab "Filters" and select "Soft Lighting" in the pop-up menu.
  • Pull the slider to the left to adjust the effect. Press the "adjust" button to apply the adjustment.
  • When you are ready, go to the bottom of the webpage and click on "Save" to download the photo.

Adjust the value of soft lighting


Lighting is important for creating the art you want. Sometimes, you want to use soft light to your advantage but the light source is hard light. After photographing someone or something, you will notice the heavy contrast between the highlights and shadows. With the help of two apps mentioned above, you can easily and quickly soften the shadows that look too harsh. Although softening shadows can be achieved in post-processing software, you should not always rely on it. If you can modify the lighting with diffusers, the result will be much better.

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