Tips on how to handle lighting and shadows in Photoshop

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The key rule with lighting is “thou shalt not lose thy fade”. One of the biggest and most common editing mistakes is that highlights are too bright and shadows too dark. This creates a harsh image that seems unnatural. Unless you’re working with an art piece, this doesn’t work for most commercial imagery and looks forced. It’s also most unflattering on products since this leaves blank looking areas if you’re using a 255 level background. To avoid this problem, it may be better to hire a photo editing service that knows what they’re doing, or use a specialized software program such as Adobe Photoshop or Movavi.

1. Using Levels for Brightness

There are several different methods your photo editing service may use to tackle lighting. The primary one of these is Levels. Levels ascribe a numeric value to the brightest white, darkest black and midpoint between the two. This can then be adjusted to brighten mid-tones or darken them and also limit the maximum output for both numbers. A proper photo editing service won’t just use this. They’ll combine it with contrast, highlights, light/brightness, and more so that you don’t end up with that tell-tale loss of gradient.

2. Proper White Balance

It’s also very important to tackle what temperature your image is so that your whites are actually white. Many poorly edited images end up with a yellow cast because the white balance is incorrect for the location. This is a tell-tale sign that you should brush up on your photography but it can easily be fixed in Photoshop. Adjusting the hue and temperature is as easy as fixing the brightness, and you can choose just to work with mid-tones or highlights separately to get this perfect, so your lighting looks normal.

3. Using RAW as an Advantage

Many photographers will argue this, but shooting in RAW makes dealing with adjustments in Photoshop much easier. The reason for this is that RAW format breaks the image down into data which can be adjusted over and over without losing information. JPEG, on the other hand, causes something called artifacting which means that over time the image will lose its quality if it’s edited again and again. If you edit the lighting once and it’s perfect, this isn’t a problem, but if you keep making changes, it will eventually ruin the quality of your image.

4. Don’t overdo it

Many times simply brightening an image is all it takes. As a photographer, you should be shooting the correct lighting and exposure in camera, but we can’t always have perfect exposure every time, and Photoshop is the perfect tool to fix those “oops” images. If you’re using a photo editing service, they need to know what you consider to be “too much”. Some photographers prefer their images to look brighter than others, and some photo shoots require more editing. The key is a balance. Too much editing and it looks artificial, too little and it stops looking professional.

5. Actions and Flares

If you want to add a little “more” to your photo, you can also play with your lighting using preset actions and lens flares. These are tricky – too much and your image looked false but used right, and it can change the image from good to wow. Most photo editing service companies have tons of different actions and preset flare designs to make your image pop, they can also add misting or hazing to evoke dreary mornings or hazy summer days.

Lighting is often what makes your image which is why you should strive to get it right “in camera” first. If you realized this recently and want previously taken photos to get enhanced, approach any professional photo editing service provider to do the job.

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About the Author: James Watt

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