Most of the time your camera is fairly accurate. But what happens if you have a once-in-a-lifetime shot that’s underexposed? Is there a way to save it? The basic answer is yes – or you can at least make it better.
Obviously, you’d rather get the exposure correct — or as close to perfection as possible — before you take the picture. But today, we are assuming that isn’t possible. So let’s look at how you can fix the shot in Photoshop for better results.
In this case, the fix is simple and uses the same tools I recommend using for all your pictures (for more information about digitally developing all of your photos.
A quick Levels and Curves adjustment should solve the exposure issue in the shot. Here’s how:
1) Open the file in Photoshop – then, right away (before you do anything else), save it as a .PSD file. That way you will always have your original to go back to. While Lightroom is non-destructive to the original photo, Photoshop is not. So be sure to work on a copy. (I’ll send you more information on working in Lightroom next week.)
2) Up in your menu bar, choose Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Levels. In the Levels box, drag the slider on the right (circled in red) in to meet the black part of the Histogram.
3) Then, in your menu bar, choose Layer – New Adjustment Layer – Curves. The Curves box will appear. I nudge the part of the line that controls the darks (notice how the lines on the sides of the graph go from light to dark?) down just a small bit (where the dot is circled in red).
While adjusting the Curves, I also made a quick adjustment to the cyan cast by opening the Curves box and clicking on the gray/middle eye dropper, circled below. I then looked for an area in the photo that I knew was a good middle gray, clicked on it with the eye dropper, and presto! Instant color correction.
Remember, post-processing your files is not only a necessary part of digital photography, it is also an area in which the creative process is still very much a part of the photography experience. There are a number of ways to reach every end result in Photoshop, Lightroom, and other such post-processing software, but having a basic understanding of some of these basic tools will help to get you started.