Thursday, November 1, 2007
Make It Just Right
Turn your good images into your best images by using Photoshop to bring out those details that are too bright or too dark
This Article Features Photo Zoom
Let’s look at the other side of exposure—underexposure. When not enough light reaches the sensor, important tonalities start to mush together, making dark areas look unappealing and formless. Plus, color can be diminished. Just as in bright photos, this can happen from mistakes in exposure or dealing with a scene that can’t be properly imaged with your camera’s sensor.
Here’s a dark photograph, seemingly unsalvageable. This is a shot made about an hour after sunset along the Knife River in northern Minnesota along Lake Superior. I was using long exposures and painting the rocks and falls with a bright flashlight. Light painting is fun—simply set a long exposure (at least 30 seconds, but minutes are better) and then paint the scene with light by moving the beam of a strong flashlight over it.
Digital makes this technique great because you can see what you’re doing with the light, but it can be misleading as you look at the LCD. The darkness all around you fools you into thinking the photo is brighter than it is. In addition, the light from the sky was fading here, and I misinterpreted the exposure for it.
Let’s go back to layer modes to bring detail out of the dark areas in this photo. Once again, an adjustment layer is added without making any changes to it. You can see how much this image is underexposed by the severely challenged histogram (Figure 1). All of the tonal information is on the left side. Still, no adjustments are done at this point.
The answer is simple. Duplicate the Screen layer. You can drag the layer to the copy layer icon next to the trash can at the bottom of the layer palette or you can use a keyboard shortcut, Control- or Command-J. Now you can see a lot more detail in the whole image (Figure 3).
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