Tutorial: Correcting Underexposed Portraits

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“I’m always looking for perfection. Every photographer, in one way or another, if he’s serious, is. He ain’t ever going to get it. But hope springs eternal.”—Phil Stern

Out here in the real world, everybody makes mistakes and sometimes when shooting, I loose track of my camera settings, don’t keep up with changing lighting conditions and forget to chimp. That combination of errors results, more often than not, in an underexposed image.

One technique some people use in this situation is to use Photoshop’s Levels (Image >Adjustments> Levels) command: They slide the right hand triangle to the left to increase exposure but that also increases contrast at the same time. Another method is to use Curves (Image >Adjustments> Curves) to increase overall exposure.  I prefer to use Photoshop’s Layers command and here’s the simple technique I use to fix that problem using Photoshop:







Here’s how I do it: Create a duplicate layer using the Layer > Duplicate Layer command. You can name the layer or not, then select “Screen” from the Layer’s palette’s Blending Mode menu. If you’re lucky the underexposure will be instantly corrected but you may have to modulate the effect by using the Layer’s palette’s Opacity slider to change the overall exposure of the duplicate layer. For the image below, I used 90% for the corrected image. When it looks the way you want use Flatten (Layers > Flatten) create a single layer file.

The final image has its under-exposure corrected and has been lightly retouched using my normal tips and tools.

As with any under-exposed image you can expect to find some amount of digital noise—depending on how badly underexposed the image file is—and that’s when I use Nik Dfine to minimize the noise.


Note on the model: For many years Tia inspired me and you’ve seen her photographs on my former blog and in my books but she has retired from modeling to concentrate on raising her children. If you know of any models or aspiring models or just women who would like to become my muse, please have them Contact me.








Joe Farace's Glamour Photography book

You can see more of Ms. Stoneman and many other models in my book  “Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography.” As I write this, new copies are selling on Amazon for $18.95 (Prime) with used copies available for the bargain price of $15.62.