Correcting indecent exposure

(Well, sometimes that happens when you shoot raw, right?) I think the Exposure control in Camera Raw is worth the price of Photoshop itself! Okay, serious photographers always strive to achieve the best exposures possible for their images, but difficult lighting conditions can sometimes throw a digital camera's exposure off by a few f-stops.

Figure 9-9 shows an example of difficult lighting conditions: backlighting. I was taking a photo of this troublemaker (he always gets into the bird feeders in the garden), but the sun was coming in behind the subject, resulting in underexposure. Backlit conditions are great for silhouettes, but not when you want to capture detail of the main subject, as in my case here, Rocky the squirrel. The Camera Raw Exposure control was the very thing I needed to expose the main subject of the image correctly.

Figure 9-9 shows an example of difficult lighting conditions: backlighting. I was taking a photo of this troublemaker (he always gets into the bird feeders in the garden), but the sun was coming in behind the subject, resulting in underexposure. Backlit conditions are great for silhouettes, but not when you want to capture detail of the main subject, as in my case here, Rocky the squirrel. The Camera Raw Exposure control was the very thing I needed to expose the main subject of the image correctly.

Underexposed original image Exposure corrected in

Camera Raw

Underexposed original image Exposure corrected in

Camera Raw

Figure 9-9: Rocky the "bird-feed-stealing-backlit-underexposed" squirrel.

To show you how to adjust exposure using the Camera Raw Exposure control, I'm switching topics from "pesky bird-feed-stealing squirrels of the Midwest" to "photos taken in London." The Camera Raw Exposure control lets you increase or decrease exposure of an image that's under- or overexposed. Unless you're already an old hand, evaluating the exposure you get from your digital camera can be tricky at first — but with some practice, you'll be comfortable in no time. Figure 9-10 shows the photo after the White Balance Daylight setting was selected (in the previous step), but with the Auto setting turned off in the Exposure setting so you can see the original exposure.

Figure 9-10: Image with the original exposure shown.

It's clear that the image is too dark — a common type of underexposure when a photo is taken in bright light and the digital camera meters its exposure from the bright sky. Fear not: The Camera Raw Exposure control can get that exposure to where you want it. Here's how:

1. Click the Auto button.

Make sure Auto Exposure is turned on, and re-evaluate your image exposure with the Auto Exposure adjustment applied by Camera Raw. The Auto adjustment for Exposure will approach where you want the image to be corrected. For the image shown in Figure 9-11, the Auto adjustment adds +1.35 (about one-and-a-third f-stops) to the exposure of the image.

2. Increase or decrease exposure to avoid clipping.

Moving the Exposure control slider to the right increases exposure; moving the slider to the left decreases exposure.

Figure 9-11: Camera Raw Auto set for the Exposure control.

Make sure the Shadows and Highlights check boxes are checked so you can view any clipping that might occur as you adjust your images in Camera Raw. Clipping in the highlighted areas of the image will show as red; clipping in the shadow areas will show as blue. (Figure 9-12 shows an example of clipping in highlight areas of the sky, a result of overexposure.) When you start to see clipped areas in an image, you'll need to move the sliders back until no clipping occurs.

Figure 9-12: Clipped areas in an image where too much exposure is added.

You can also hold down the Alt key (Option on a Mac) while moving the slider to check for clipping. Holding down the Alt/Option key turns the image black and displays clipped pixels as they appear when you move the Exposure control slider. See Figure 9-13.

Avoidance of clipping isn't the only goal of adjusting exposure. First you want to adjust till you get the best exposure for the image. You can minimize clipping with other controls (such as Shadows, Brightness, and the Contrast), but don't sacrifice the overall exposure of an image just to kill off a few clipped pixels.

Figure 9-13: Checking exposure while pressing the Alt (Option) key.
Get Paid to Take Digital Photos

Get Paid to Take Digital Photos

Reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information presented in this book is  accurate. However, the reader should understand that the information provided does not constitute legal, medical or professional advice of any kind.

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