How I Fix Underexposed Images

We have all done it. It doesn't matter how long you have been a photographer; at some point, you will take the perfect shot, but the flash will not fire, you will have slipped and moved the shutter speed, or any manner of blunders. Here is how I fix them.

Thankfully, as a studio photographer, this doesn't happen anywhere near as often as it used to when I worked in the wedding world. Nevertheless, there are instances where you quickly take two frames, and the second is better than the first, but the flash hadn't fully recycled when you hit the trigger. This was the case in the image I chose for this particular video.

Thankfully, raw files are incredibly versatile, and although it's not as simple as bumping up the exposure, this video shows a relatively quick way to make the image appear as originally intended. 

The image that I chose for this video has a really good mix of issues to tackle. The oranges in the wood replicate issues that you can have with skin tones, while the mixed color temperature offers a nice challenge to the camera's sensor. The image was taken on a 12-year-old camera, and in spite of this, I still manage to produce a usable image from a very muddy raw file. Some of the tricks used here include sparse use of the HSL, sharpening, and a fair bit of dodging and burning. 

How do you tackle salvaging underexposed images?

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Deleted Account's picture

Shot 4 frames of a waterfall on the weekend; the first three had motion blur, but the fourth was pin sharp; just a shame the right third of the file was corrupted.

Nitin Chandra's picture

There is a simpler solution...Don't under-expose :)

Cornelius Mouzenidis's picture

Tbh, I hate fixing underexposed images because I seem to never find the right balance. I use Photoworks to do so, but it's much better to shoot with right exposure first, haha.