Photography tips – save that photo!

*Updated – May 2014*

Everyone underexposes photos at one time or another.  Sometimes lighting changes quickly, you don’t have time to change settings, and sometimes the lighting just sucks.

I did a session for some friends.  It was inside their house and the lighting wasn’t the best.  Since it was a family shoot, I had to have my aperture higher so everyone was in focus.  This resulted in a very high ISO (1600) and still some slightly underexposed pictures.  Due to high ISO, there unfortunately is grain.

There are a few things you can do to save an underexposed photo.

Today I will go through a few things that can help you save a photo so it still looks decent despite the circumstances.


Here’s a picture I took of my little man last November.  Very underexposed, plus he was wearing a hat and that usually gives you sucky catchlights.  Not one for the scrapbook, but one that I thought maybe I could work on it a little.


Here’s my first fix.

1. Defog (Unsharpen at 20/60/0)

2. Added layer mask for Levels.  Moved the 3 pointers until it looked right.  This does require a bit playing around with.  Eventually you will learn how to get them right.  Hint, don’t move the one of the left much at all, and move the one of the right a lot.

3. Added layer mask for brightness/contrast and added a little contrast.

4. Flatten

5. Adjusted the color since it was too yellow (Enhance/Adjust Color/Color Variations)

6. Duplicated Layer (ctrl J) and added gaussian blur (Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur).  Adjusted opacity of the layer so the noise was reduced but there were still enough details.  Erased out the eyes, lips and nose on the blur layer.

7. Flatten.


Since I wasn’t in love with the color version, I did some more edits.

1. Converted to Virtual Photographer – BW

2. Duplicate layer and converted to VP – Sepia.  I reduced the Wash setting and the Aged setting to my liking.

3. Flatten

4. Using the burn tool in your tool box on the left, burn around the edges to add a vignette.

5. Added a texture layer, reduced opacity to aroun 15% and then erased around the face.  Textures can be anything that you can take a photo of: cracked dirt (this example), leather, rocks, scratched paint, etc.  Just place it as the top layer, reduce the opacity way down and erase around the facial features for the look you want.

Hope this was useful!


3 Replies to “Photography tips – save that photo!”

  1. Wonderful save on this photo. I so need to work on editing…and camera settings…and lighting…and everything.

    Thanks for great how-tos.

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