Tuesday, September 11, 2018

What To Do When Your Light Sucks

If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you'll know that I vastly prefer to get the light and exposure right in the camera because there's just no substitute for good light.  (I've even purchased huge strobes for great light out in the field!)

But that doesn't mean I always have control of things.  Take yesterday, for instance.  I was out bike riding with a family and I stopped when the father was taking a picture of his son in the worst light possible:

For fun, I took one too:

Of course I always shoot RAW+JPG because you never know when you're going to need some serious manipulation to make it look decent.

I'll show you how I did it after a few announcements.

Seminar Update

Atlanta was awesome!  

"I want to thank you again for such a comprehensive course.  You explain things very well, and the handouts, grey/black card, etc. are very helpful.  A week later, I am still very excited about how much I have learned.  Thanks for being a fabulous teacher."

Next up: Broomfield, CO (near Boulder)   (Also Scottsdale if there's enough interest.  Let me know at Gary at Friedman Archives dot com ).

Can't make a live seminar?  Don't forget the Home Study Course is available no matter where you are in the world!

A New Website!

At long last, after 18 years and a lot of foot-dragging, the FriedmanArchives.com stock image website has been updated with a great new look.  Not just a .css facelift, but a complete overhaul - over 5000 pages have been replaced and automated for a superior browsing experience on tablets and cell phones (okay, web browsers too).  It's still not finished - more images need to be brought in and the UI is perpetually getting tweaked.  Give it a spin, and let me know what you think!

In the Pipeline

RX100 VI and VA ebook now available in Kindle and other E-reader formats

Fujifilm X-H1 ebook now available in Kindle and other E-reader formats

The Fujifilm X-T3 has literally just been announced, and an ebook is being planned.  Let us know if you'd like to know when it's ready.

Sony A7 III Spanish translation.  (Ditto.)

Fundraising Update

You wouldn't know this by reading the mainstream press, but there is still a low-level war going on between North and South Vietnam, and there's still a lot of fallout that we don't hear about.

As I've mentioned previously I'm on my way to Vietnam to illustrate through photography the inequalities of underprivileged people and to show we Americans give a damn.   This project is extremely valuable to every society and will benefit the entire next generation. I have been focused and dedicated to the success of this project.   I'm asking for help to make this entire trip be successful so it will allow the Hearts for Hue organization to continue down this humanitarian path.     I have always had a passion and commitment to helping others, especially those not as fortunate.    Please help support the goal of giving back and making the world a little better!

PS:  I've already been assisted by many of you and want to thank you profusely.  You are great and good people who make the world a bit better.  Thank you!

This is your chance to help.  Check out the project HERE and please be an important part of this mission by contributing.


When you open an image in Photoshop, Adobe Camera Raw kicks in and allows you to do some pre-processing (click on any image to make it larger):

Here I moved the "Highlights" slider all the way to the left, and the "Shadows" slider all the way to the right.  I also moved the Blue-Yellow slider toward yellow to warm it up a little.  

Then I went to the Curves tool and pulled up the middle of the curve, making the image look a little "happier".

Then I went to the Details tool and applied these settings to quash the noise, which you always get when you lift the shadows.  (And this was ISO 100!  That's why it's always better to start with good light to begin with.)

Then I hit "Open Image" and did some more general tweaks:

First I used the Quick Selection tool to select just the skin ...

...and added a little bit of yellow and red.

Then I did a SELECT --> INVERSE to select everything but the skin, and darkened it with curves.  (I know, I applied curves twice.  But this is a seat-of-your-pants process and I can't always know what it's going to need later on.)

And there you go.

But what would have happened if I didn't shoot RAW, and just manipulated the .jpg?

Not bad...I'd say the RAW conversion is about 5% better.

There are a ton of portrait photographers out there who pride themselves on shooting in available light and post-processing to make things look good.  I never wanted to join their ranks.  But it sure is nice to know the technique because you just never know when you'll need it...

Until next time,
Yours Truly, Gary Friedman


  1. How would HDR have helped in this case? Is it an option for a portrait shot?

    1. Excellent question. It actually might have helped, since I wouldn't have had to lift the blacks as much. I'll have to try that next time. :-)

  2. I'm not one of those guys either. Great job here you make it seem easy. Can you say how much time it took you to get to final image? How do you know what tools to use? I assume you had a vision for the final image so that led you to use the correct tools? Obviously my questions tell you I don't have clue when it comes to processing. Finally, what would have happened had you just selected auto?

    1. This took about 10 minutes, and I had no idea it would turn out this good when I started.
      Yeah, I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like. Do you mean "What would have happened if I had selected Auto in Photoshop?" Just tried it -- looks substantially the same.

    2. Yes, that's what I meant. Interesting selecting auto in photoshop effectively had the same result? Can you post the Auto version, please?

    3. Sorry, I wasn't clear. Using "Auto" in photoshop made the resulting image look pretty much the same as before I hit "Auto". In other words, no meaningful improvement.

    4. Ahhhhhh thanks for clearing that up.

  3. These sliders for highlights and shadows are something I have discovered only recently for my macro shots. I had been using Shadow Relief in Topaz DeTail. I find the sliders (in PS CS6 Image Adjustments) more versatile for more than a slight excess of shadow. Highlights can be quite a problem on shiny insects and some foliage. I use the preceding on TIFFs from DxO Optics Pro initial processing of ORF RAW files.

  4. Can you advice when to use sliders (highlights, shadows, whites, blacks) and when curves?

    1. I'd be interested too but that sounds like a Photshop class which I don't think you do or do you?

    2. That's definitely Scott Kelby territory. If you don't want to dig in that deeply, at the end of The Friedman Archives Seminar (which is available for streaming - see "Home Study Course" link in the blog post above) I talk about the only six things I do in Photoshop (tools of which are available in pretty much every image editing program).

    3. Gary, is that the end of the 2 day seminar? I don't find a "home study course" mentioned above.

  5. Re: "Auto" in Photoshop: CS6 has three Auto options, colour, contrast and tone. I use contrast on all my images but find the other two disastrous.

    1. I tried all three on the first image and all three were disastrous! :-(

    2. That has pretty much always been my experience with some exceptions, notably when the issue is just that the image is little too dark overall. Of course most of time I don't use full photoshop and only use auto typically on snapshots I want to share quickly with family and friends and don't have time to pull up full blown Lightroom, Elements, or Photoshop.