When the following picture was taken, there was a chandelier casting light on the left side of the man's face. I would like to even out the lighting so that it appears consistent with the right side of the face.

I tried playing with levels on Photoshop but it doesn't seem to help.

What Photoshop tools can I use to fix the lighting?

enter image description here


2 Answers 2


There are a number of things that can help a picture like that but I hope you don't expect too much from it. Here is one possible way to make more of it. There will be many other interpretations.

First, since you mention photoshop I recommend opening the image in camera raw. (I'm assuming it was shot in jpeg). In the open dialog box select the file and from the drop down list of types select Camera Raw.

in camera raw apply some noise reduction carefully. That particular shot is rather noisy. It has some color noise as well as luminous noise.

Second thing I'd do is some careful sharpening. You'll want to experiment with the settings but maybe start with the first value of 100, threshold of 1, move detail until it helps, and move the masking until it balances out the look. Thom Hogan has some helpful tips on his site: http://www.sansmirror.com/articles/proper-noise-reduction-in.html

I'd probably apply some clarity to the image, too. And a white balance adjustment.

Once you open you have to do retouching. There's no way to fix that blown out area without retouching. Normally I'd put in more steps on doing this so that you can more easily undo but that would turn this into a very very long answer. So I'll just cut to the chase. Switch to the clone stamp tool and use the option or alt key to select an area right near the blown out area and then paint over the blown out area. Sample multiple spots and pay attention to the outline of the face. After some time you'll have a better version of this picture.

Good luck! Retouching takes time and practice. But sometimes a flaw like this can be "forgiven" if the rest of the picture works. It doesn't have to be perfect.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you so much for your advice! One question- what does "apply clarity" mean? How do I apply clarity to an image? \$\endgroup\$
    – dmr
    Mar 20, 2012 at 2:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Clarity is a tool in Camera Raw that is really helpful. It adds some contrast to the image but in a very controlled way. Another way of doing it inside Photoshop but not in camera raw is to use Unsharp Mask and then set a low percentage and high threshold. It can add a little punch without being overbearing. \$\endgroup\$
    – nwcs
    Mar 20, 2012 at 11:45

Here is a quick edit. I did the following:

  • Curves layer. Used gray point (middle eye dropper) and selected neutral places (whites of eyes and teeth) until I got an overall color I thought looked ok. Original was too yellow IMO.

  • hue/saturation adjustment layers - picked yellow channel and lowered saturation a bit.

  • patch tool. selected bright spots and healed them (dragged selection to a good patch of skin that wasn't so bright)

  • clone tool. cleaned up a few more small spots

  • finally, added a blank layer. Selected a good skin color from his left cheek and painted that color over spots highlights that were left. Changed blend mode to color so it only affects the color, but not the luminosity, so that skin texture is preserved. Lowered the opacity to 20% so the effect was realistic.

Each of the above was done in a subtle way, on a separate layer, with opacity adjusted, so that overall they slowly build up good skin tone. You can't just do one curves layer and whack it into shape in one go.

enter image description here


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