How to Edit an Underexposed Photo in Lightroom

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

How to Edit an Underexposed Photo in Lightroom

I have a secret. I love editing underexposed photos. This may sound ridiculous (or even sadistic to those of you who dread editing all together), but there’s something about uncovering those hidden details that gives me the feels. Doing this, of course, is a heck of a lot easier if you’re shooting in Camera Raw. If you haven’t tried shooting in RAW before, or are unsure why shooting in RAW should be something to consider, we’ve got an upcoming tutorial on this topic next week, but for now … on with the edit.

Here is the original shot.


ISO250, Speed of 1/60, focal length of 25mm, aperture of f/2.2

Camera used: Panasonic GH4 with Olympus 25 1.8

MCP Actions Lightroom Presets used in this edit: QUICK CLICKS COLLECTION™ LIGHTROOM PRESETS

Original Image


No doubt about it. It’s dark. Like, really dark. Except for those pesky bright lights which I had to expose for just right, otherwise the details would have been blown out completely. So who knows what other interesting details may be lurking in those shadows? Well, I do, because I was there, and lucky for me I can prove it to you.

After loading the image into Lightroom, I first used Transform Vertical -2 to correct the photo’s perspective so the trees didn’t look so slanted before cropping. I dropped the Highlights down to -82 and boosted the Shadows to +90 and … 



Voilà! As you can see above, there IS more to this photo than meets the eye. Unfortunately, now that we adjusted the Highlights and the Shadows, the photo appears really hazy. To fix this I boosted the Dehaze to +39.


Next, I wanted to  enhance the coloring of the sky and lighten the image even further, so I ran the In the Shade Preset and the Add 1/3 Stop Preset. I also boosted the Contrast to +22, boosted the Clarity to +19 and the Vibrance to +3. 



To get everything just a bit crisper I adjusted the Sharpening to +28, which as expected, brought in a some noise but I took care of that by boosting the Noise Reduction in Luminance to 75. With a brush, I desaturated colors on the street level that were made slightly more orange (we don’t want to see any oompa loompas, thank you very much) by using the Shade Preset and boosted saturation to sky, adjusting the sky color temperature to add more magenta.

I then added Clarify and Noise Reduction with a brush to the Chinese Theatre replica to solidify it as a focal point and used a brush with low Sharpness to blur out the crowd to create a sense of movement.

Finally, I added the Light Landscape Preset to enhance the coloring of the sky even more and used the Clone tool to remove recycling sticker from garbage can (it was really bothering me so it just had to go).


And here’s our final image!

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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How to Edit an Underexposed Photo in Lightroom