From a Throwaway to a Keeper

Anoush Anou after ACR correction.

The original of this photo was a mistake. A throw away. Anoush and I were doing soft light portraits, thanks to the canopy of leaves overhead. I had carefully metered for the existing shady light conditions. But when I clicked the shutter, thanks to a breeze or something, the sun broke through the leaves and a beam of sunlight hit Anoush’s face and washed over some of the rest of the scene. The result was most of the image ended up somewhere between properly to overexposed, and her face was the most overexposed. It looked bad. The kind of photo most people would discard. But I didn’t throw it away. I learned from one of my photo guru’s years ago never to throw away a photograph, even a bad one.

I came across this three year old image image recently while looking for something else. Pardon the pun, but a light came on. A possibility for this photo formed in my mind. A warmly lit face and everything else fading away in subdued light. I have spotlit people before, but on purpose. This time I would do a spotlight image after the fact using Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

Anoush Anou before ACR correction.

Thankfully, I created this image as a RAW file. Had I shot a JPEG file there would be no way I could recover her washed out face. But a RAW file holds the possibility of recovering a seriously overexposed subject. There are limits of course, but recovery usually works with some degree of success if you haven’t overexposed by much more than two stops.So I opened the raw file in ACR and pulled back dramatically on the exposure slider, leaving her face in warm sunlight and the rest of the image in subdued light. I also adjusted the white balance in ACR to compensate for the greenish color cast from the overhead leaves. It worked. I love it.


ACR and RAW: Two of the Best Things You Can Do For Your Images

The RAW versus JPEG Exposure Advantage