Monday, June 15, 2009


No, no, no... not that kind of Extreme Makeover! No one going under the knives here :)


Arrrrhhhhh!!! A once in a life time wedding shot, under exposed by at least 4 stops, background is pitch black; some light came from "above" (no divine intervention here ;) but leave a bad illumination! How did it get to be like this? Can the photo be "saved"?

Tell you a secret, this bad shot was done deliberately! ARE YOU MAD? I hear your scream! Please let me explain...

I was shooting friends, Desiree and Charles wedding ceremony in the Old St Paul Church in Wellington.

According to Historic places Trust of New Zealand, I learned...

"Old St Paul's is a fine example of 19th century Gothic Revival architecture adapted to colonial conditions and materials. Designed by the Reverend Frederick Thatcher, then vicar of St Paul's parish Thorndon, the first Anglican cathedral of Wellington is considered his best work.

Constructed entirely from native timbers, the glowing interior is enhanced by stunning stained glass windows. Memorial items and displays tell the early history of Wellington."

Yes, yes... everything is beautiful, but the inside of the church is a wedding photographer's NIGHTMARE!
I talk about the beauty of bounced flash recently, try that in Old St Paul and your flash output immediately get absorbed by the vast dark brown ceiling structure!

You do get some little bit of light back, so dim that you might as well knee down and cry! Ha ha ha..

Tell you another little secret...

Shooting and producing a presentable picture with what equipment you have on hand is a calculated compromise!

Lets look at my dilemma:
I want to use bounce flash but ceiling too high and dark brown in colour.
I know my shot will be heavily under expose and there will be bad colour cast.

BUT working to my favour are the incredible low noise CMOS chips in my D300, the robustnesss of RAW image format AND the extensive corrective ability of Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CS4!

I took the plunge and shot the picture with my D300, 20mm f2.8 prime; exposing at full 2.8, ISO 800 plus bouncing the full output of the SB600 flash up the ceiling! You still think I AM MAD!

Now I will show you step by step, my extreme makeover finesse ;)

This is what it look like when the Raw file is open in Adobe Camera Raw.
This is what it look like AFTER various adjustment are made to the image!

Take note how I fine tune the various sliders!

I think they are quite self explaining, no?

The tricks:
Use FILL LIGHT instead of Brightness and Exposure.

RECOVERY is great for getting back highlight (the gown) detail!
Be careful of the BLACK slider, slowly does it!

Combine TEMPERATURE and TINT to get the perfect balance.

I put the 16 bit TIFF file through Noise Ninja to clean up some noise caused by the under exposure. And presto! What do you think? Go on, I DARE YOU to try that out!


heather said...

ha ha.. your`e the "Michelangelo" of photoshop. I went into that cathedral.Beautiful..but so dark and a bit spooky.No light in there.

Pixel Man said...

Wow Its amazing how much detail a good digital camera sensor captures in an under exposed photo. Viva La Raw File

Anonymous said...

You are a genius...if I am lucky enough to marry again, you will be my chosen photog for the day

CH said...

Thanks for sharing your secret, not many photographers (even the Pro) dare to take the risk of situation like this, hope that those photographers follow your instructions can get the results like yours, or else you know what the reply? They will say is not my fault I just follow CY instructions, hahaha !!!