Adjust your camera settings.
Once you understand the conditions, you can adjust your settings to capture vivid highlights and shadows. ISO, aperture, and shutter speed are all vital for a successful exposure with a robust dynamic range. ISO measures your camera’s sensitivity to light. Aperture measures how open your lens is, and shutter speed measures your exposure time.
“You have to understand what aperture does and what your ISO limitations are. With ISO, the lower the number, the more light you need to capture a well-exposed image. That means you’ll need to slow the shutter speed or boost the aperture,” Rivas explains. If you take photos on a bright, sunny day, you’ll want a lower ISO. This means your shutter speed can be longer, or your aperture can be wider.
If you shoot in a dark room or with minimal light, then you want your ISO to be high, which makes it more sensitive to light. But be careful. When you raise your ISO you can start to lose detail and get some noise in your image. Aperture also affects your depth of field. So if you have a low f-stop number (meaning your aperture is more open), then your photo will have a shallow depth of field.
“If you bring up your shadows to get more detail in them, your highlights are going to get blown out and you’ll lose a lot of that detail. That means your highlights will be a little overexposed,” explains Rivas. You want to find the happy medium where you have shadow detail but your bright areas aren’t blown out. Experiment with different ISO, aperture, and shutter speeds to find the right settings for your photo.
Perfect your levels in post-production.
“You want to have good data in your images to take into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom as you adjust the blacks and whites and the highlights and shadows,” says Rivas. Start with these tools and features to amp up your image.
View your exposure and tonality levels with the Histogram tool. Use it to see the dynamic range of the image you’re editing. Before you adjust the contrast or change any settings, take a look at your histogram and use it as a baseline.
2. Exposure slider
Before you move to other editing steps, use the Exposure slider first to adjust the overall brightness of your image. Move it to the left to lessen the exposure, darkening the image, or right to increase the exposure and brighten the image.
3. Blacks and Whites sliders
The Blacks and Whites sliders help you determine the optimal highlights (whites) and shadows (blacks) in the photo. Press option/ALT to view the clipping preview, which will show you the whitest points in the image. Adjust your slider just past the point where pixels start to show up. If too many pixels appear in this view, that means you’ll blow out the image. It can be helpful to adjust past the point of pixelation, since it can show you how far you can push your whites without blowing out the image and losing detail.