Monday, September 2, 2013

Saving an Underexposed Photo

As mentioned in a previous post comparing RAW and JPG photos, RAW gives you additional flexibility in recovering improperly exposed images. While taking photos of hummingbirds at my in-laws, I ended up with a few much too dark photos (discussed in my last post, you can read more about it there).  These photos were taken on my usual RAW + JPG setting and you can see the original (JPG) and developed image from the RAW file below.

To get from the original to the final, the irst step is importing the RAW file into your RAW editor and letting the program do any base settings. Darktable (the RAW editor I use) applies a base curve and sharpening upon import.

After importing its time to adjust the exposure and white balance. The white balance would be optional, as I like to add a slight boost to the color temperature (as many digital cameras have a tendency to produce colder color tones) on many photos. The next two steps are also optional, but were used to produce the image below: perform a slight de-noise and then a slight sharpen to the image. Lastly boost the fill light to finish out the image recovery and we are done after exporting the finished product.

Original, too dark photo

Edited photo
While the developed photo is still nothing amazing, this does highlight the possibilities for recovery and the quality of a drastically altered RAW photo. This shows a big advantage of the RAW format over the JPG format, as you cannot achieve the same results - even by applying the same exact procedure to the JPG file in the same program.