Sometimes, you see a great shot, but you don’t have time to get your settings just right.  You quickly take the shot, hoping for the best.  Then, when culling through your photos, you look at that image, and it’s underexposed … or overexposed … and you pass right over it. When choosing which images to edit, don’t look over a good shot so quickly.  If some of the other components that make a good picture are in place (composition, color, a special moment, etc.), then it’s worth a try to salvage the image. Below, on the left, is an image from a recent wedding.  My camera settings were:

  • ISO 250
  • f/2.0
  • 1/100 sec

I probably should’ve had my ISO bumped up a bit higher.  I’m not a fan or an advocate of a ton of post-processing.  You should be getting your settings correctly in-camera, and the majority of your photos shouldn’t require much post-processing.  What I’m saying here is if you have a good image - especially of a unique moment during a wedding day - you can try to save the image. We always see other photographer’s amazing final images, and it’s so easy to jump to comparing your photography to another photographer’s work.  Before you immediately start thinking, “Why don’t my photos look like this?” remember how far you’ve come in your photography journey, and consider that their image may have originally looked a bit different than the final image that you’re now seeing!

As far as how I got from the left image to the one on the right…

  1. I always start in Lightroom 5.  I use Mastin Labs‘ Fuji Pro and Portra 400 presets for the majority of my photos.  These presets give my photos that film look that I desire while still allowing me to shoot digital.  For this image, I used the Portra 400 preset.
  2. In Lightroom, you can adjust some of the settings.  I changed the exposure from 0.00 to +0.60.  This really helped to fix most of the underexposure.
  3. I then adjusted the shadows from +34 to +65.  This further helped to achieve the exposure that I wanted.
  4. I made the image a bit more warm (increase temperature) and magenta (increase tint).
  5. From there, I opened the image in Photoshop CS6 and applied my custom action.
  6. Lastly, I increased the contrast a bit.

And, voilà!  A portfolio-worthy image from a terribly underexposed one!  If you’d like to give my custom action a try, you can download it for free here!