Photo editing masterclass: How to lighten exposure

Darren Flynn

Photoshop guru Martin Evening sorts out your photo-editing and post-processing problems. Here he looks at lightening a shot's exposure in post-processing

Before Darren Flynn

This is a fine example of a long-exposure shot of burning wire wool that captures the beautiful pattern created by the sparks. Darren Flynn photographed it with the light reflecting in what looks like the edge of a pond, so capturing a mirror image of the reflections. However, be careful when photographing fire. Some photographers have damaged the landscape or buildings trying to capture this type of effect.

After Darren Flynn
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1. Basic panel adjustments

Amateur Photographer

I opened the raw image in Camera Raw and went to the Basic panel. Here, I set the Exposure slider to +3.10 to lighten the image and reveal more detail in the trail of sparks. I also darkened the Highlights slightly and increased the Shadows slider amount.

2. Straighten the horizon

Amateur Photographer

In this step, I selected the Straighten tool and dragged across the image to straighten it. I then fine-tuned the Whites and Blacks sliders. I dragged the Whites slider to the right to allow the brightest portions to hard clip. Similarly, I dragged the Blacks slider to the left to hard clip the blacks.

3. Final tone adjustments

Amateur Photographer

In reviewing the adjustments I had applied so far, the scissor shape that was so strong in the original was now lost. I therefore chose to reduce the Exposure slider setting to -1.80 to darken the exposure. At the same time, I boosted the Clarity and Vibrance to add more definition and colour to the spark trails.