Don’t be Afraid to Take Pictures in Bad Lighting

It was a very overcast day.  It was actually pretty dark, and it was getting ready to rain.  I saw a nuthatch on a branch, so I decided to shoot, anyway.

I put my camera on a high ISO of 640, and the F stop was 5.6.  I had nothing to lose.  Either I would get an acceptable shot, or I wouldn’t.  If I decided not to shoot because of the bad lighting, I wouldn’t have anything.

This image is straight out of the camera.  I dropped it into Photoshop for some corrections.  The first thing I usually do is some simple cleanups.  In this image, I want to remove the white speck on the beak, and maybe a few dust spots here and there:

The next thing I do when I look at an image in Photoshop is to open up the levels pallete (Image / Adjustments / Levels).  See the right side of the levels box where the black line stops?  This is where I’m going to push the white triangle slider to the left to meet the black line, in order to increase the brightness:

This is how it looks after I made that level adjustment.  Already the image looks brighter:

The next thing I do is go into selective color (Image / Adjustments / Selective Color).  Because of the lighting conditions with this image, and the darkness of the image, there was a green cast.  Play with the sliders, because every image is different.  In this image, I want to get rid of the green cast.  I’ll pick green from the drop down color selection.  I did the same thing with white.  Because each image is different, you’ll have to experiment with these settings to get it looking the way you want:

Next, I go into brightness / contrast (Image / Adjustments / Brightness/Contrast).  For this image I added a +24 brightness and +7 contrast:

This setting added brightness and contrast to the whole image.  I wanted to make the bird a little brighter, and keep the background a little on the dark side, to emphasise the bird, so I took the history brush at 50% opacity, and just brushed around the outer edges of the image:

Here are the before and after images.  Not bad for bad lighting on a crappy, rainy day!

3 thoughts on “Don’t be Afraid to Take Pictures in Bad Lighting”

  1. Hi lorri really enjoyed your photoshop tips they are great.Juat a question you might be able to help me with .How to add a light in a house window ?eg a house at night with light in the window how do i add the light so it looks real.Thank you looking foward hearing from you .Kind regards Bernard brady.

  2. Hi Bernard,

    Good question. That would be a great topic for a future tutorial. It would be more than I could answer in a comment. Keep an eye out for a future post.


  3. Great tutorial Lorry, I am not a graphic designer but once in a while I need to do some graphic work so bookmarked this tutorial and used over and over again when I have to re touch images, good job.

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