Stop wasting pictures! 10 tips for bagging keepers every time

Stop wasting pictures! 10 tips for bagging keepers every time

9. Rescue dull, dark exposures


Photography Tips: rescue a dark exposure

This image suffers from simply being too dark… luckily this is easy to fix

Everyone makes mistakes – it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been taking pictures. Mistakes are not just part of the learning curve, they are proof that you are still experimenting with your photographs!

But there’s no need to reach for the Delete button when you take a shot that’s not perfect. You can’t always work miracles with Photoshop CS or Photoshop Elements, but you can usually work wonders! Exposure, in particular, can be fixed easily using image manipulation software.

You have much more control, and get fewer unwanted side effects, if you shoot using the RAW Quality setting. But you can also make corrections to both brightness and contrast if you shoot as JPEGs. Drab colours [1] and dark areas [2] in an image are particularly easy to correct for.

Problem areas in dull exposures

Rescue an underexposed shot with Photoshop Elements

Rescue underexposed photos in Photoshop Elements - step 1

1. Open the shot in Elements and go to Layers>NewAdjustment Layer>Levels. (You could use Auto Levels, but an Adjustment Layer gives a more polished end result.) Move the right-hand slider until it meets the far right of the graph. This will instantly brighten the picture. Adjust the central slider to fine-tune the exposure.

Rescue underexposed photos in Photoshop Elements - step 2

2. Take a look at the change. You’ll notice that this exposure correction has left the sky looking rather washed out, but you can boost its colour using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Here we have increased the Saturation slider for just the blue parts of the image.

Photography Tips: rescue a dark exposure

With these simple adjustments we have a scene with much more impact.


10. Don’t flood the scene with flash

Photography Tips: don't flood a scene with flash light

Too much flash has removed detail and made this a dull shot

Working in low light conditions is always a challenge, and although you can often make do without using flash, sometimes it’s unavoidable (for more on low light, see Night Photography: set up your camera to shoot anything).

The advantage of the convenient built-in ‘pop-up’ flash on many digital cameras is that you’ve always got it with you. But while a ‘pop-up’ flash is a effective way of solving a lighting dilemma, its effect can often be rather stark and unflattering.

The limited range and power of a built-in flash mean that although the subject in the foreground may be adequately lit [1], the background usually becomes a dark, featureless expanse [2]. It looks unnatural, and you can lose the setting and detail of your scene [3].

Problem areas in portraits with flash

The solution is to combine a burst of flash to light the foreground with a slow shutter speed to lighten the background of your image. This may sound complicated, but you can activate this ‘slow sync’ effect to get balanced exposures by simply setting the right flash mode (or switching to Av mode).

This sets the right flash power for the aperture you have selected, but then also calculates the necessary slow shutter speed to ensure that the background is also correctly exposed (for more, learn how to eliminate harsh shadows when using flash).

Photography Tips: don't flood a scene with flash light

A better distribution of light brings out the colourful background detail

PAGE 1: Cut out the clutter; Avoid limp landscapes
PAGE 2: Stay sharp at slow shutter speeds; Banish lifeless still lifes
PAGE 3: Avoid portraits that lack focus; Shoot into the light and avoid a washout
PAGE 4: Avoid lifeless action shots; Avoid poor photos in low light
PAGE 5: Rescue dull, dark exposures; Don’t flood the scene with flash


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