Easy Photo Editing and Better Images with Photoshop Actions

Ideally, as a photographer, we want to nail exposure in camera.  It makes editing easier and faster – and it creates better images.  But what if you failed to get perfect exposure while shooting?

In Photoshop, you can use Photoshop actions, which automate the editing process.  Another option to learn to use Curves Adjustment Layers.  A combination of both is the perfect solution.

In a recent Watch Me Work Photoshop Training Class, Maggie Wendel of Maggie Wendel Photography submitted the following photo for editing.  In my critique, I noticed three issues I wanted to correct for her:

  1. Under-exposure: The photo needed more light.
  2. Composition: Not only was the subject centered, but her eyes fell right in the middle of the photo.
  3. Color issues: The white balance and skin tone was too cool.

fixing underexposed photo in photoshop

Since Maggie is portfolio building, we discussed that she could have opened up wider, shot at a higher ISO, or used a slower shutter speed.  Any of these would have let in more light. If the photo was shot in Raw, some of this could have been corrected in Lightroom or ACR too. We also talked about the rule of thirds in composition, and how she could have achieved that in camera.  White balance could have been achieved via a custom white balance or by using a gray card and adjusting in Raw.

As with most editing, if these things are not done, you can still improve the outcome by using Photoshop.

For this image to go from the “before” to the “after,” I did the following {Blueprint}:

  • Ran Color Burst from the Complete Workflow action set – this Photoshop action helps correct exposure, add color pop, and brighten mid-tones.  It also adds some clarity and contrast and even sharpens. I used the optional “paint on pop” layer on her dress, and reduced the opacity to 60%.
  • Now that the exposure and contrast looked better, I needed to fix the overall colors and skin tones.  I used Bag of Tricks See-Saw color correction Photoshop actions and added red and yellow, which reduced the blue and cyan colors.
  • Lastly cropping… I chose to use a 10×8 ratio and did a horizontal crop.  I came in close so that the eyes fell in the top 1/3 of the image. I also cropped so she was not dead center.

So just 2 actions and one crop layer, we have this:

how to fix an under exposed image in photoshop

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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Comments

  1. Christy says

    I too find that when I try to correct exposure, I have A LOT of noise resulting. Then, when I try to remove the noise, I lose so much detail that the photo looks too soft. I have fought this with my D70 for the past several years. I just got my D7000 and have not had an issue, but I still use my D70 sometimes as backup or whatnot. How do you combat this problem? And do you offer an action that would? Also, how did you get her eyes to look so clear and glass-like? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. :)

  2. Dawn says

    I have the same problem as Queen of Whirled. I have a Canon 5D Mark II. With 21mp how do you get such a grainy photo when cropping?! I’m one that will have to go to school to learn photoshop, I just don’t get it. But my SOOC images are bringing me down lately and I don’t know what to do.

  3. says

    Noise is one reason it is important to nail exposure in camera. As you brighten up and correct exposure in Photoshop, more noise is introduced.

    The better the image you start with, the better everything will look edited too.

  4. Marcia says

    Hi Jodi….my first question is….can someone get away with just learning to use Light Room if they shoot in raw all the time, or should you learn both Elements and Light room?

  5. says

    Thank you for posting this awesome and informative write-up! I m trying to learn editing in Photoshop and this post really helps me on how to better edit the images that I take.

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