In my last post, I talked about Adobe Photoshop and why you should get a copy of this software installed on your system. This post is going to be my first tutorial on post-processing.
So you people must be wondering – What is this ‘dark photograph’ that I am talking about. Quite a lot of friends send their photographs to me on my e-mail to get some basic corrections done. I have noticed that of all the things, the exposure is at its worst ninety nine times out of hundred in their photographs! Also, whenever I open my own photographs for editing, the first thing that I correct is the exposure. I am sure that you must have come across a situation in your life when you wanted to set that photograph that you clicked recently as your profile picture but you just added it to one of the albums rather than making it your profile picture because it was too dark! If things like this have happened, this post is for you!
DARK photographs or under-exposed photographs are very common. Now on, I will be using the term under-exposed and I would insist that you add this to your vocabulary as well! Sometimes, it is good to use some technical lingo I feel. All of us have a set of under-exposed photographs on our hard-disks and we wonder how good it would have been had these photographs been properly exposed. Trust me, getting a decent exposure in post-processing is quite easy and this post will make you an expert only after a couple of attempts.
Below is a photograph that I intentionally under-exposed by 1.3 stops while shooting to make it useful for this tutorial.
I will start with the image on the left and the end result would be the one on the right. Notice that not only the exposure has been corrected, the colours have also been given a boost. Could you predict that the wall was pink-ish (I painted my room myself this year) before making the correction? No, you could not!
Before we start, I would suggest that you download this photograph from here for practicing (Right click on the image and click on ‘Save Image As’. This is a full resolution picture). Once you’ve practiced, you can apply the same logic to all the other under-exposed photographs that you have.
STEP1: Open the photograph in Photoshop
Opening a photograph in Photoshop is as easy as opening it all the other softwares.
Go to File->Open and find the photograph’s location.
STEP2: Ctrl+Shift+L (Auto Levels)
Pressing these three keys together would do quite a good job for you.
If this doesn’t work, (Chances are that your software doesn’t have the shortcuts configured properly or somebody has changed the shortcut settings.) go to Image->Adjustments->Levels
A dialog box like this would appear.
Click on Auto and the job would be done!
This Step (STEP 2) will improve 99% of the photographs that you will ever open up for correcting exposure.
Whenever you’ll read a Photoshop tutorial online, you would notice that the tutorial first names the technique and then the shortcut. But I preferred to do things in the opposite way in this post (first I wrote Ctrl+Shift+L and then Auto levels, and would do like this every time). This is because I feel keyboard shortcuts are something which give you super-powers while working on Photoshop. The sooner you learn the shortcuts, the better it will be for you. You’ll feel as if you are in total control!
For the remaining 1% photographs which you couldn’t correct using this step, read on.
STEP3: Ctrl+L (Levels)
If Auto Levels didn’t work for you, chances are that the image was a bit tricky for the algorithms of this software to handle. But don’t worry, we do have a solution. We will do it manually.
Go to Image->Adjustments->Levels or just directly use the shortcut Ctrl+L.
Again a dialog box as shown above would open up. You would see three upward pointing arrows, or sliders as we call them.
I am just giving a brief introduction of these three arrows(sliders).
1)Slider on the left- Shadows or Blacks slider.
2)Slider in the middle- Midtones or Greys slider.
3)Slider on the right- Highlights or Whites slider.
Ok, now the dialog box is open and you know that there are three sliders. What next?
STEP4: Slider adjustments
Hold the Alt key and bring your pointer to the right(highlights) slider and click the slider. You will notice that the complete photograph has turned black. Now move the slider (While keeping the Alt key pressed) towards left until some decent amount of colour has appeared on the photograph. Now release the slider. Your highlights slider should be approximately at a position as shown.
Ok, I know there is a smile on your face!
Now do the same thing with the left slider, i.e. hold the Alt key, bring the left(shadows) slider to the right this time until some decent amount of colour appears on the black photograph. However, this image is such that as soon as you’ll press the Alt key and the left slider, there would be a good amount of colour present on the black image, so you wouldn’t have to slide it much. Even if you don’t slide the shadows(left) slider in this case, your photograph would be fine. But this would happen only for this particular photograph. When you will try doing this on any other photograph of yours, you will have to move around the shadows slider to quite an extent.
REMEMBER: You move the right slider to the left and the left slider to the right. Position and direction of movement are opposite!
Ok, after having pressed the Alt key and right slider together and moving them; and doing the same thing with the left slider, the photograph would look somewhat like this.
We are almost done. Now all that you have to do is use the method of hit-and-trial with the middle(midtones) slider.
Without pressing the Alt key, move the midtones slider here and there and select a position where you think the photograph looks best, and you are done!
End of post-processing. Now some gyaan.
There are some situations where the software’s algorithm of Auto-Levels doesn’t work. In that case, you should always try doing things manually like described in this post. You will definitely find a way out.
Also, you just don’t have to apply what you learnt just now to the photos you think are under-exposed. This can be done, rather I would say should be done to each and every photograph that you have and you want to upload on facebook. You will notice how this would improve your photograph. All the free softwares that I talked about in my last post generally have a single button for correcting exposure. What they do in the background is actually quite similar to what you did manually just now! (Feeling good, ehh?)
Now you would say when this can be done with just a single click, why go through such a complicated procedure?
You have to go through this procedure because at the end, you have to ride the Honda CBR1000RR and not the Honda CBR 250R (Ok, don’t kill me). And to do that, you will have to learn the basics!
Ok. So I think I am almost done now. In the next post, I will explain what goes behind the scenes at the pixel-level when you move your sliders here and there. Learning this is also important because I feel having this knowledge will help you in decision making while correcting exposures in photographs in the future.
And at the end, I would request you to share this post on any of the platforms given below if you liked it and it worked for you- only if it worked for you or you liked it. Also, I would request you to give me a feedback about this tutorial in the form of comments on this post (and other posts as well for that matter). Since I am new to blogging, this would really help me.