How to Fix Underexposed Photos in Photoshop

How to Fix Underexposed Photos in Photoshop

Photoshop Adjustment Layers to Fix Underexposure

Underexposed photographs are a little too easy to take. It happens with high contrast or in low light conditions. Fortunately, it's super easy to correct underexposed images in Photoshop, and today I'll show you a simple yet effective way to fix those underexposed snaps while keeping your original image intact (and bonus, with the option to later fine-tune the settings if you want).

But before we begin, and if you want to follow this tutorial exactly as described, please download the following image: Download

Step 1

Open your photo in Photoshop.

Step 2

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves. Name this new layer as “Shadows Brightening” and click OK.

Step 3

In the Curves properties panel, click and drag near the middle point of the histogram to the up-left part of the histogram to brighten up the entire image.

Step 4

As the intention is to only brighten the shadows and not the entire image, click on the layer mask thumbnail of the “Shadows Brightening” layer.

Step 5

With the layer mask selected, go to Image > Apply Image. Apply the following settings and click OK.

Step 6

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation. Name this new layer as “Shadows Saturation” and click OK.

Step 7

Hold the “Alt” key on your keyboard. Click and drag the “Shadows Brightening” layer mask thumbnail to the “Shadows Saturation” layer mask thumbnail. This will apply the layer mask we did to this new one.

Step 8

Select the “Shadows Saturation” layer (if it is not selected yet) and in the Hue/Saturation properties panel increase the Saturation a bit. In this case, a value between 15/20 will work just fine.

Step 9

To make the final adjustments to your image, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast. Name this new layer as “Subtle Bright” and click OK.

Step 10

Hold the “Alt” key on your keyboard. Click and drag the “Shadows Brightening” layer mask thumbnail to the “Subtle Bright” layer mask thumbnail. This will apply the layer mask we did before to this new one.

Step 11

Select the “Subtle Bright” layer (if it is not selected yet) and in the Brightness/Contrast properties panel increase the Brightness just a bit. In this case, a value of 5 will work just fine.

Conclusion

Using only 3 layers, or 2 if you do not need the extra brightness of the “Subtle Bright” layer, you can fix your underexposed photos in Photoshop in a matter of minutes and with the ability to adjust the settings later if you feel they are not right without modifying the original image. Also, as we are using layer masks to target only the shadows, you can modify the layer mask as well to have the effect only on the areas that you want.


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