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I just recently had the chance to go to Iceland and document the northern lights I took a shoot with the car and the northern lights as it's for a piece I'm working on, but any adjustments i make can't seem to get a good photo. I'm trying to light up the northern lights a bit more while still keeping the car visible.

Anybody has tips I'm still learning the ways so much appreciated.

I've attached a link to download the Raw: [removed]

  • 3
    A preview in the question would also be nice. – user29608 Dec 6 '16 at 20:34
  • As some others have shown, there is a lot you can do in post, but it is important to get a proper exposure to work from. This image is under-exposed. Lightroom's graduated filter is also very useful for this type of shot :) – Sam W Dec 7 '16 at 16:16
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Without masking the shot & treating both halves differently, the best I can come up with quickly is the following:-

Original for comparison [jpg of RAW preview]
enter image description here

To add punch & try clean up what is a pretty noisy image..

[All settings are at 'overkill' to clearly show the principle without having to look at the full size images.]

Lift exposure slightly, brighten the shadows whilst dropping the blacks, add a little clarity.

Tweak the curves to push 'mid-dark' yet push back 'very dark' - in essence, more of the same as the last step, just honed more tightly

& the biggie - try to clean up the luminance noise.
TBH, this is only partially successful. Short of splitting & masking each half [sky/ground] separately, I'd be tempted to just use the Spot Heal tool on the areas where the noise smoothing fails.

I tried doing this in Nikon Capture but couldn't get anywhere near.

Photoshop Camera RAW processing sheets...

Result... [jpg again]
The horizon does look a bit HDR, but my excuse is this was a 'quick fix'. Ignore the banding too, that's a result of the overkill settings ;)

enter image description here

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I thought that lifting the left part of the exposure curve be a good start. I am on an iPad using app that I did not use before, and I am sorry for the clumsy example and unwanted crop.

enter image description here

  • Sorry yes I'll upload a preview – lee Dec 6 '16 at 22:17
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I really like the composition here with power lines creating some leading lines and it would be great if the car is in the left of the frame rather than in the middle. I see there is a lot of noise in the picture therefor we cannot lift the exposure as much as we like since the image will be more grainy. Even though how much I tried on lightroom, I couldn't get the car to be light up without adding more noise and ruining the picture. My tip is you shot in lower aperture than f10 and then ofcourse you need to stack the 2 photos which were focusing on the car and the sky. That way you can reduce some noise. Also you can do some creative light painting which can light up the car. Below is the image with some twerks in the basic adjustments in lightroom enter image description here

the image can look darker than I intended because my laptop screen is not the best option for this type of work

  • thank you everyone for all the help, hopefully my next photo will be taken more better – lee Dec 9 '16 at 19:56

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