Backlit, make the photos pop with the help of Curves

I enjoy backlit photography immensely, the subject engulfed with the sunlight rim light, crowning their hair and wrapping around their limbs. I prefer the use of natural light only. The downside of capturing this lovely light is that I often end up a slightly off exposure, resulting in that my subject is too dark with muddy or with washed out skin tones. This blogpost deals with the magic Photoshop can perform to get you out of trouble.

In the examples below, I might be a tad on the yellow side; the reason to this this is to exaggerate the effects.

I prefer doing as much of treatment in the RAW filter import. Apply curves to give a pop to the picture and at the same time give a little shadow or to brighten the photo slightly. I usually place 3 pins on the curve line before starting making changes. The lower pin is your shadows, the middle and yes you got it… the third is the highlights. The effect I am after is to adjust brightness to the mid tones while maintaining appropriate levels of shadow and highlight.

Next step is adjustments to white balance, contrast etc. here it is very much to up to which expression and warmth I am looking for. Pay attention to grain and balance in the photo. Saturation boosts all colours by the same amount whilst vibrance aims to boost the least saturated colours whilst leaving already saturated colours where they are. The intent of increasing vibrance is to increase the apparent colourfulness of an image without overdoing parts that are already saturated, e.g. skin tones.

Let move into Photoshop, the objective is to brighten certain areas. Ad a curve layer, and pulled the mid tones up drastically before inverting the newly made mask (Control + I). Do notice make sure the mask filled with black. Using a soft, white brush at 30% opacity, 100% flow paint in the areas you want to brighten. If you brighten areas by mistake, just go black with your brush, and paint them out again. Make sure you are consistent in brightening the areas, and do not worry if you get them too bright, as you can always lower the opacity on the curve layer. If you want to check where you have applied your mask, then it is easy to see, just hold the alt key down while clicking the mask.


Now let us have a look at Contrast. Add a new curve layer. Then, by moving the sliders towards the centre of the grid will it clause a slightly increase of both shadows and highlights.



And we are done… J


Do remember

To read the other articles about backlit photograph

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