I know a little about cameras since doing two courses, and so I set my camera on manual setting most of the time to take shots.

I took the following shot in New York of Manhattan at night. Because of the lack of light I used a wide aperture, and a slow shutter speed of 5 sec. (I used 100 ISO).

I rested the camera on a brick of the building as I didn't have a tripod with me at the time. The photo came out pretty well, but I notice that there are dark areas to the sky around the bright lights (especially noticeable around the spire of the building on the right), it became slightly more noticeable once I adjusted the levels in Photoshop.

Please can somebody tell me what causes this and if there is anyway to eliminate this from the photo (either using different camera settings or by adjusting the image in Photoshop)?

Here's a sample image from my site Manhattan at Night:

sample of problem -- click for more

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    \$\begingroup\$ Did you, by chance, happen to shoot this picture as a JPEG with Active D-Lighting turned on? \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Aug 16, 2012 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Stan, I do recall having Active D-Lighting turned on. I shot it in RAW + JPEG FINE. Is there anyway I can recover this in Photoshop? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 16, 2012 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh... Active-D Lighting causes this effect?! I've seen this effect in some of my photos for years and concluded it was a perception or contrast issue. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 16, 2012 at 23:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Active D-Lighting, or the equivalent feature from other camera makers, should be used with great care if you want to see 'what's really there'. Simplistically - the systems attempts to achieve increased apparent dynamic range overall by adjusting local areas semi-independently. A major consequence can be that areas close to black in one part of an image become less black than other areas of the same actual luminance level in other parts of an image. Scenes that have areas that are close to black to the eye may be lightened and previously unseen unevenness may appear. ... \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2012 at 1:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ ... A related effect is that areas of close to constant luminance may have subtle details removed. eg When taking pictures of Polynesians with relatively uniform brown skin tonings I've found that Sony's "D-Range Optimizer" when set to its most aggressive level tends to make faces or arms look like slabs of coffee coloured skin. Worse with flash. The same setting works well in increasing apparent dynamic range on image areas with a reasonable level of variation and no large areas with little variation. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 17, 2012 at 1:39

1 Answer 1


If you have the RAW file from the shot, absolutely. Just pop it open in what ever RAW processor you use.

Active D-Lighting basically applies a slight HDR-like effect.

The effect should only be applied to the jpeg.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Excellent! You are correct, the RAW file does not have the dark areas. Have a tick! :-) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 16, 2012 at 23:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Slightly off topic, but the RAW image actually has the extension NEF. Is that a RAW file, or another type? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 16, 2012 at 23:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Gareth NEF is Nikon's Raw format. Every camera maker has their own (with the relatively rare exception of the the standardized DNG format). \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Aug 16, 2012 at 23:37

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