In this photo editing tutorial 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.
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 1-6
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.
SEE MORE: How to process raw images the right way
04 Tweak colour brightness
Grab the Targeted Adjustment tool from the toolbar, then right-click in the image window and choose Luminance. Click over a blue tone in the sky, then drag downwards to darken the blues, until the blue slider in the HSL panel reaches to about -21.
05 Increase the blues
Set Luminance Orange to -28 and Yellow to -19. Right-click with the Targeted Adjustment tool again and choose Saturation. Click on a blue tone in the sky and drag to the right to increase the saturation of the blues and purples until Blues reaches about +53.
06 Set a pin
Grab the Adjustment Brush. Set Exposure to +0.50, Shadows to +26 and Clarity to +23. Click over the rocks to set a pin. Check Show Mask in the options and ensure Auto Mask is unchecked. Choose a bright colour in the colour box next to Show Mask.
PAGE 1: How to beat underexposure and rescue shadow detail – steps 1-6
PAGE 3: How to beat underexposure and rescue shadow detail – steps 7-12
PAGE 5: How to beat underexposure and rescue shadow detail – steps 13-18
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