Conquer Underexposure: how to rescue shadow detail and how to deal with noise
In our latest Raw Tuesday series post we show you how to beat underexposure. Our in-depth Photoshop tutorial shows you how to rescue shadow detail missing from the darker areas of your picture and how to deal with ensuing noise.
Have you ever wondered what the point of shooting in raw actually is? If so, this is the tutorial for you. A raw file is a complete record of all the data your camera has captured.
While JPEGs take up far less room and offer greater flexibility in the digital world, raw format files are the only choice for anyone who wants the best possible quality. Sometimes the level of detail you can squeeze out of a seemingly dud exposure is quite astonishing.
Take our scene here. Captured at the end of the day with the light fading and the foreground in shadow, there wasn’t a hope of recording a balanced exposure.
Our before image
Of course, in situations like this you could use a graduated filter to balance things out – restricting the light from the sky – but if you don’t have one to hand then it’s near impossible to get a pleasing exposure in a single frame.
Another option is to shoot two exposures – one for the sky, the other for the land – and then combine them later. But this isn’t always possible, especially if, for example, the bridge you’ve set up your tripod on is about to be overrun by ramblers!
But there’s no need to admit defeat. It’s surprising how much detail you can recover in Adobe Camera Raw. Here, we’ll show you how to tease out this detail using Camera Raw’s powerful tonal sliders. Inevitably, this leads to an increase in noise. We’ll combat this with the plug-in’s excellent noise reduction commands.
How to beat underexposure and rescue shadow detail – steps 1-3
01 Open the image in Camera Raw
Open Adobe Bridge, then go to your start image. Right-click the thumbnail and go to Open in Camera Raw. You don’t have to have Photoshop open, as Bridge is capable of hosting Adobe Camera Raw too (which means you’re not locked out of Photoshop when using Adobe Camera Raw).
02 Lighten the shadows
Go to the Shadows slider in the Basics panel and drag it to +67 to reveal detail in the land. Drag highlights to -57 to bring back detail in the sky. In older versions of Adobe Camera Raw, you can get similar results with the Fill Light and Recovery sliders. Set Temperature to 7600.
03 Check for clipped pixels
Hold down the Alt key while dragging the Blacks and White sliders. Drag Blacks to +23, then set Whites to -38 to add a little more definition to the clouds. Next, set Contrast to -36 and Vibrance to +32. Boost midtone contrast by setting Clarity to +28.
PAGE 1: How to beat underexposure and rescue shadow detail – steps 1-3
PAGE 2: How to beat underexposure and rescue shadow detail – steps 4-6
PAGE 3: How to beat underexposure and rescue shadow detail – steps 7-9
PAGE 4: How to beat underexposure and rescue shadow detail – steps 10-12
PAGE 5: How to beat underexposure and rescue shadow detail – steps 13-15
PAGE 6: How to beat underexposure and rescue shadow detail – steps 16-18
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Adobe Lightroom: what every photographer needs to know about the ‘alternative Photoshop’
on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 at 12:01 am under Photoshop Tutorials, Tutorials.
Tags: photo editing, Raw Tuesday