A confession: I’ve made every photo mistake in the book. But, hey, I’ve been at this game for 331⁄3 years. If 331⁄3 doesn’t mean anything to you, then you’re much younger than I am! Here, I’ll show you techniques for fixing two common mistakes: over- and underexposed images. You can use these techniques in Photoshop CS4 and Photoshop Elements, and similar techniques in most photo software. For RAW files, use these principles in Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom or Aperture. It’s always best to shoot RAW files and work in a RAW-processing program.
Too Bad It’s Too Dark
This is the original of the image that opens this column, taken during a workshop I was leading for the LIGHT Photographic Workshops in Los Osos, Calif. I goofed and underexposed the photo. My excuse: I was having too much fun helping the students get great shots of this horse and rider at sunset. My mistake: I forgot to reset the exposure compensation on my camera back to 0 from a previous shoot, where I had the exposure compensation set to -2.
Not only was the picture too dark, but it lacked some contrast and color. My Quick Fix was lightning fast! I adjusted the Levels, Brightness and Saturation. In the Levels panel, I moved the highlight slider (triangle on the right) to the left to just inside the histogram “mountain range.” In the Brightness/Contrast panel, I boosted the contrast to 44. In the Hue/Saturation panel, I boosted the saturation to +30. These quick adjustments resulted in a much improved image.