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How to Edit a Photo with Terrible Lighting

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

It happens. Sometimes you find yourself in a not so great, lighting situation as a photographer.

This shoot was a video and photo branding session for my friend Lauren who is in the beginning journey of being a teeth whitening specialist for her business called Utah Dazz.

First, my camera settings:

  • Camera: Canon EOS R.

  • Focal length: 36mm (on my 24-70mm Sigma lens)

  • F/stop: f/2.8

  • Shutter speed: 1/60

  • ISO: 640

  • White balance: 5500

At the time, I chose these settings, because I like to have range with lighting when I edit my photos, so I tend to shoot on the darker side when watching the lighting histogram while shooting. But when I imported the photo into Lightroom, I was surprised it was still darker and much warmer than I prefer for my photos.

Time to get to work editing.

When I edit, I always start by adjusting the white balance to the whitest item in the room. Then onto exposure making sure not to over expose any party of the image. Then I work my way down the "Light" tab, adjusting to what my eye likes.

I will create a small S curve in the Point Curve to create a bit more dynamics visually in the image.

For her photos, I drove up the saturation and turned up the noise reduction because the photos came out quite grainy because of the low light situation I found myself in.

I have yet to find a preset that works with my shooting style that I actually like for my brand. So I edit most of my photos this way, and it has worked so far. I feel like I am still developing my eye for that bright and airy look that I like so much for my brand.

Taking the edit up a notch

As I continued editing, I was feeling like she wasn't "popping" off the background like I wanted her to. So I used the nifty "Select Subject" under the masking tool and inverted the mask so that the background was selected for editing.

I drove up the exposure and just like that, Lauren just popped from the image while giving it that great bright look. This was the end result after cropping and adjusting the rotation:

I was so happy with how this image came out and showed Lauren as an approachable teeth whitening specialist in her environment.

I repeated the editing process with her whole session.

More before and afters.


Camera: Canon EOS R

Lens: Sigma 24-70mm

Focal length: 27mm

F stop: f/2.8

Shutter: 1/125

ISO: 1000


That lighting... YIKES


Like, HOW did this image come from the before photo?! The power of editing and cropping is amazing!


Camera: Canon EOS R

Lens: Sigma 24-70mm

Focal length: 27mm

F stop: f/2.8

Shutter: 1/125

ISO: 500 (After I brought in my lighting setup.)


Lauren loved the vibes that I delivered in her gallery. My hopes is that she can use these images for every need for her business and that she can have all the success she desires.

View the social media post:

View the reel created for this branding session:

View the Full Gallery


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