A team of researchers from UC Berkeley, Google, and MIT have created an AI that can remove shadows from an image and recreate the skin tones in a surprisingly realistic manner!

The AI Algorithm focuses on two different types of shadows; ones from external objects and ones naturally occurring because of your own facial features. It then uses two neural networks works to either remove or soften those shadows to maintain a natural and evenly lit appearance.

Portrait Shadow Manipulation

Why is this big news? Well, most professionals will either place their subjects in a way to be evenly lit or bring lighting with them in order to avoid these situations requiring lots of retouching after the fact. This isn’t the case with the majority of photos taken in the world. Most are taken by amateurs and often in very harshly lit environments leaving dark shadows and harsh highlights on the people and subjects in the images. With this technology, anyone can create an evenly lit image, since the AI is designed specifically to address that problem by targeting those blown shadows and highlights and removing/softening them until a clearer subject remains.

Abalation Study

The scientists say “their tool works in a realistic and controllable way” and could prove useful for more than just images captured in a casual setting.


For example, professional photographers could use this tool to save images that were taken indoors or environments where it was impossible to control the lighting situation like weddings or concerts.

In this work, we attempt to provide some of the control over lighting that professional photographers have in studio environments to casual photographers in unconstrained environments … Given just a single image of a human subject taken in an unknown and unconstrained environment, our complete system is able to remove unwanted foreign shadows, soften harsh facial shadows, and balance the image’s lighting ratio to produce a flattering and realistic portrait image.

Regardless of what you think & feel of the tech, it’s kind of mindblowing the advances that are being made recently, and we’ll likely start seeing these things incorporated in more AI-driven tools with apps from companies like Adobe and Skylum! Just remember, “with great power, comes great responsibility!” So once these tools are available, be sure to use them properly.

To learn more, visit the Portrait Shadow Manipulation site here and/or read the full paper from the research team below;