Correcting For Under Exposure and Boosting Dynamic Range with an Environmental Portrait in Lightroom 4 - Digital Photography School

Correcting For Under Exposure and Boosting Dynamic Range with an Environmental Portrait in Lightroom 4

Introduction

This tutorial is a demonstration of the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System. With over 200 presets, the LR4 Preset System has been critically acclaimed as the most powerful and intuitive preset system available for Lightroom 4. DPS users can get 10% off by using the DPS10 coupon code upon checkout. Click the link above to learn more/purchase.

Overview

Often times when shooting environmental portraits we “expose to the right”, meaning we are pushing our highlights to the right of the histogram without blowing out too much of our highlights, or clipping too much of our shadows. Depending on the type of scene, this can lead to what looks like an underexposed image directly out of the camera since we are trying to preserve the majority of our highlight detail. However, since most of the range in the highlights and shadows are still retained, we can bring it out through post production. In this step-by-step tutorial, we will demonstrate how to not only correct the exposure in this type of portrait, but also how to increase its dynamic range.

Lightroom 4 Preset System Mixology

This effect can be achieved quickly in under a minute with the SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System, If you don’t own the preset system, please skip to Step 1 to learn how to do it manually.

1. MY MIXOLOGY > 25 HDR Strong
2. BASE ADJUSTMENTS > 23 Light Soften Skin (Detail)
3. BASE ADJUSTMENTS > 34 Medium Boost (Contrast)
4. BASE ADJUSTMENTS > 62 Light Noise Reduction (Noise Reduction)
5. Add +.30 Exposure
6. 13 Nature | Color Adjustment Brush
7. 12 Sky | Cloud | Ocean Adjustment Brush

The Original Image

Step 1. Applying our Basic Adjustments

What we usually recommend when working in Lightroom is to work your way down the Develop Module Panels starting from the Basic Adjustment Panel.

Because the image is underexposed, one of the first steps that we need to do is to correct the exposure by adding +0.30 stop to Exposure. In order to increase the dynamic range, we are also going to bring down the Highlights and Whites by -80 and lift up the Shadows and Blacks by +80. When applying this technique to your own photos, you may be better off dialing in your Highlights, Whites, Shadows and Blacks and then adjusting the Exposure as necessary.

At the same time, when we increase the dynamic range, the contrast flattens out, so we do need to add Contrast to compensate.

Because we are working with a portrait, we want to have nice, smooth skin tone that is not overly saturated, so let’s decrease Clarity and Vibrance by -10. Your Basic Panel adjustment and image should look like the following:

02 Basic Adjustments

Step 2. Adding Additional Contrast via Curves

The image can still use some more contrast, so let’s add a subtle contrast-boosting “S” curve.

03 Tone Curve

Step 3. Sharpening and Noise Reduction

With the SLR Lounge Preset System, we typically apply the following Sharpening setting to our image:

Detail

We are also going to add Noise Reduction because we to smooth out any noise that is introduced from the dynamic range boost. We use this setting for Noise Reduction:

Noise-Reduction

Here is how your image should look like after applying all of these adjustments.

04 Detail

Step 4. Using Adjustment Brushes for Sky and Landscape

Even though we boosted the dynamic range of this image, the sky is still overblown. The LR4 Preset brush we use for the sky is called “Sky | Cloud | Ocean.” This brush lowers the exposure, highlights, and shadows, and increases contrast, clarity, and saturation in the sky. Here is our settings for this brush.

Sky Cloud Ocean Brush

Finally, we want to add more midtone contrast and saturation to the foliage in order to make them pop. Here is how the settings look like for the “Nature | Color” LR4 Preset Brush that we applied to the landscape. This also increases contrast, clarity, and saturation.

Nature Color Brush

Now that all our adjustments have been applied, let’s take a look at the before and after images to compare the original underexposed image against the final image.

ORIGINAL

HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE PORTRAIT

05 Finished

The Lightroom 4 Preset System

The SLR Lounge Lightroom 4 Preset System is designed to enable users to achieve virtually any look and effect within 3-5 simple clicks. From basic color correction, vintage fades, black & white effects, tilt-shift effects, faux HDR, retouching, detail enhancing, and so much more. The sky is the limit with what has been dubbed the most powerful and intuitive preset system available. Click the link above to learn more/purchase.

Read more from our Post Production category.

Post Production Pye I hate speaking of myself in the third person, haha. I am a Partner and professional photographer with Lin and Jirsa Los Angeles Wedding Photography, and the Senior Editor for SLR Lounge Photography Tutorials. I am passionate about photography as an art as well as my part as an educator in the industry. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and feel free to hit me up with questions anytime on Facebook.

  • Josh

    Just a note, the early links in the article don’t link correctly to the “Lightroom 4 Presets System”. The last link in the closing paragraph seems correct.

  • Joseph

    I make my own presets when editing large projects, so I definitely use them. But one of the things I love about editing is not having a system. I enjoy looking at a CR2 image and saying to myself “Where can I go with this?” and then starting in on it…one adjustment at a time. Don’t get me wrong, these are great articles and I read and enjoy nearly every one, but I have found that when I have a ‘system’ that I start limiting myself. Editing photos to me is like sculpting. I enjoy seeing what I can get out of it when I dig. Sometimes the photo starts telling me what to do with it. And I listen. And then I usually have a drink and try to remember that it’s a photo… ;)

  • George

    Can I get these types of presets for Photoshop CS5.

  • http://www.jimwoolseyphotography.com Jim Woolsey

    Really Cool article. Personally, I live and die by my presets in Photoshop. I need to get lightroom to speed up my workflow for sure.

  • Nitin Mistry

    I was so much Impress with your above TIPS to correct under exposed photos. Please can you give the Simmiler Tips to do with ” PHOTOSHOP CS2 or in CS3 if it is Possible to you then I will be highly oblide to you, because I had done one Assignment in last week & so manny Important Photos are Under Exposed by 1 & 2 Stops please send me on my email. Thanks with my warmly Regrds….-Nitin Mistry….

  • Nitin Mistry

    Dear Sir, Can you give the simmiler type of Tips with ” PHOTOSHOP CS2 or in CS3

Some older comments

  • Nitin Mistry

    January 1, 2013 08:35 pm

    Dear Sir, Can you give the simmiler type of Tips with " PHOTOSHOP CS2 or in CS3

  • Nitin Mistry

    January 1, 2013 08:33 pm

    I was so much Impress with your above TIPS to correct under exposed photos. Please can you give the Simmiler Tips to do with " PHOTOSHOP CS2 or in CS3 if it is Possible to you then I will be highly oblide to you, because I had done one Assignment in last week & so manny Important Photos are Under Exposed by 1 & 2 Stops please send me on my email. Thanks with my warmly Regrds....-Nitin Mistry....

  • Jim Woolsey

    December 29, 2012 08:17 am

    Really Cool article. Personally, I live and die by my presets in Photoshop. I need to get lightroom to speed up my workflow for sure.

  • George

    December 22, 2012 07:12 am

    Can I get these types of presets for Photoshop CS5.

  • Joseph

    December 18, 2012 11:53 am

    I make my own presets when editing large projects, so I definitely use them. But one of the things I love about editing is not having a system. I enjoy looking at a CR2 image and saying to myself "Where can I go with this?" and then starting in on it…one adjustment at a time. Don't get me wrong, these are great articles and I read and enjoy nearly every one, but I have found that when I have a 'system' that I start limiting myself. Editing photos to me is like sculpting. I enjoy seeing what I can get out of it when I dig. Sometimes the photo starts telling me what to do with it. And I listen. And then I usually have a drink and try to remember that it's a photo… ;)

  • Josh

    December 18, 2012 09:05 am

    Just a note, the early links in the article don't link correctly to the "Lightroom 4 Presets System". The last link in the closing paragraph seems correct.

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