How to soften the edges of the shadows in a photo

Light is an important factor that affects the appearance of the digital photo. There are two types of light in photography photographers need to know: hard light and soft light. The main difference between hard light and soft light comes down to the size of the light source relative to the subject. A single-point light source far from the subject is referred to as hard light. A broader light source close to the subject is considered as soft light. The sun is a very large light source but it is far from the earth. So it is taken as a small hard light source. On a cloud-covered day, the sunlight passes through clouds. Clouds scatter the sunlight, which makes the sunlight light the object from every direction. So the sunlight becomes a huge soft light source. Therefore, the sunlight is hard light on sunny days and soft light on cloudy days. Hard light makes the transition between highlights and shadows sharp, while soft light creates a gradient and smooth transition. Sometimes, you want soft light but the lighting condition is hard light. After shooting a subject, you will find the shadows in the photo are distinct and hard-edged. To soften the edges of the shadows, you need to make use of photo post-processing software with soft light adjustment. Although the internet is flooded with photo editors that enables you to soften shadows, many of them have steep learning curves and are not suitable for photo editing beginners. If you are looking for an easy-to-use tool, please continue reading this post. In this post, I will introduce a beginner-friendly photo effect app with which you can soften harsh shadows without any hassle.

Photo Effects by Vertexshare

Soften the edges of shadows with Photo Effects by Vertexshare

As the title suggests, Photo Effects by Vertexshare is a piece of professional photo effect filter software. The application allows you to enhance your photos by using a variety of parameters and decorative objects.

After the program is launched, you will be greeted by a clean window. It is divided into three panels. A rich collection of predefined effects are located in the left-side panel. After the photo is loaded into the program, you will see the small preview thumbnails of these predefined effects. The middle panel takes up most of the window. This is the preview area where you can preview the effect you apply to the photo. You can zoom and pan the photo, compare the differences between the original photo and the changed photo, and discard all changes you make. A wide range of parameters are located in the right-side panel. You can adjust the exposure level by altering the exposure compensation, exposure compression, lightness, saturation, and contrast. What's more, you can adjust the local contrast, white balance, shadows/highlights, tone mapping, high dynamic range, and image sharpness. Besides, you are allowed to remove the noise from the photo. Other adjustable parameters are channel mixer, soft light, vignette filter, and vibrance.

Overall speaking, Photo Effects is a piece of simple yet powerful photo effect enhancement software. The app lets you apply basic adjustments and add special effects to make your photo look amazing. Owing to the simple layout and intuitive options, Photo Effects is suitable for all user levels. It is a great app to keep close by if you want to fast improve the quality of your photos.

Now, let's dive into the part of how to use Photo Effects to soften the edges of the shadows.

How to soften the edges of the shadows with Photo Effects

Step 1.

  • Drop your photo into the area "Drag and Drop Your Photo here". Or click on "File"->"Add Photo" to add your photo. You can also import the photo by clicking on the "Add" button. To remove the imported photo, click on the "Remove" button next to the "Add button".

Step 2.

  • Go 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 this parameter.

Soft Light

The function "soft light" controls the contrast. It can be used to flatten the harsh contrast produced by hard light. Decreasing the value will make the contrast flatter and soften the edges of shadows.

  • Pull the strength slider to the left to adjust the effect. Click on the "View button" or "Compare" button to compare what the photo had looked like before you made adjustments with what it looks like after you made adjustments. If you want to undo the effect, click on the "Redo" button to discard the adjustments.

The "SOFT LIGHT" section of Photo Effects by Vertexshare

Step 3.

  • When you finish making adjustments, 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.

PS: Use Photoshop to soften the edges of the shadows

Like Photo Effects, Photoshop also comes packed with a utility named "soft light". We can use the soft light blending mode to enhance the contrast and soften the edges of the shadows. Follow the steps below to soften shadows in Photoshop.

How to soften shadows in Photoshop

  • Add your photo into Photoshop.
  • Go to the top menu bar and click on "Layer".
  • Select "Duplicate layer" in the list and click on "OK".
  • Go to the "Layers" tab in the right pane. Change the blending mode from "Normal' to "Soft Light".
  • Click on the "Opacity" drop-down button and move the slider to the left to set a low value of opacity.

Soften the edges of the shadows in Photoshop


The softness of shadows and transition between the brightest and darkest parts are sometimes determined by the constraints of the environment. If your photographs have suffered from the harsh lighting, make full use of Photo Effects to soften shadows. The trial version of Photo Effects leaves a watermark to the exported photo. The paid version only costs you $29.95 and the license is for lifetime use. If you find other great software tools to fix the harsh-edged shadows in the future, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

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