The Elements Darkroom

The Elements Darkroom is an easy place to work - for sure it's far easier than back in the day when real chemicals and photographic papers were the norm.

Anyone who worked in a wet darkroom knows just how onerous it could be to fix an under or over exposed image.

Early in one's darkroom career it was pretty much guess work and with more experience it became easier to make an educated guess.

Luckily, this is one of the photo challenges that really is easy to resolve with Adobe Photoshop Elements.

The Steps

Early on in my digital darkroom days I typically tried to fix an exposure problem using what seemed to be the all powerful adjustment - Brightness Contrast.  Sadly this adjustment doesn't work particularly well.

Now I've learned many different and effective techniques that deal with exposure problems including ...
  • Levels.
  • Shadows/Highlights.
  • Blend Modes.
  • Dodging and Burning with a Soft Light Layer and a Wacom tablet.
If you look around the site you will find most of these topics have been covered in detail, however let's look at two Blend Modes that do a fabulous job fixing exposure problems in your elements darkroom plus they are very easy to use, quick and really effective.

Blend Modes

Using blend modes to fix problems is a good plan when the overall shot is either under or over exposed.

If only one portion of a shot is too light or too dark then there are better and more effective methods than using the blend modes - with the best being dodging and burning.

Here's the recipe ...

Under exposure (overall the picture is too dark) - change the blend mode to Screen

Over exposure (overall the picture is too light) - change the blend mode to Multiply

There are only three simple steps to follow ...
  1. Duplicate the Background Layer.

  2. Change the Blend Mode of the new layer to Multiply (if the image is too light) or Screen (if the image is too dark).

  3. Duplicate the new layer if more adjustment is needed and then modify the Opacity to taste.

Over Exposure

Now this isn't really a bad over exposure but it is a bit too light for my liking ...

elements darkroom over exposure

Following the 3 step adjustment produces these results .

elements darkroom over exposure
exposure problems under 2
Layers Palette
Top Layer Duplicated
Second Adjustment

The picture certainly looks better.  Notice that the Opacity of the top layer (which was set to Multiply) was lowered to 71% because it was just too dark at 100% Opacity.

Under Exposure

When I took this picture it seems to me that there was some prohibition in the store about using a flash - not sure about that but all the pictures from this location in Las Vegas are far too dark.

I used the slowest shutter speed I could handhold but it was still way under exposed.  The shot of the Frontier Marshall, however, was just too appealing to pass up and I figured I could rescue the shot in my elements darkroom - and here it is as it was transferred to my computer ...

elements darkroom frontier marshall

To arrive at an end result I was happy with required some additional layers (set to Screen Blend Mode), a selection and a Levels Adjustment which was clipped to the selection layer.

elements darkroom under
elements darkroom marshall adjusted
Layers Palette
Top Layer Duplicated
Second Adjustment

The Layers Palette

The Layer Marshall 1 is the Background layer copied and the Blend Mode changed to Screen.

Marshall 2 and Marshall 3 are copies of Marshall 1 so their Blend Mode is also Screen.

The Marshall Selection was just the Marshall selected with the Selection Brush and promoted to its own layer.  A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to the top of the stock and then clipped to Marshall Selection so just the Marshall is brightened.

There is one more layer at the top of the stack (it's not visible).  On this layer I painted black over the bright highlights of the lighting in the store that was still showing through.

The only other thing I considered was adding some lighting effects after flattening the image.  Here's the result using Filter > Render > Lighting Effects > Omni ...

elements darkroom lighting effects

It's amazing how much fun you can have rescuing a prized shot your thought was a lost cause just by using just a couple of different Blend Modes.


The video demonstrates the use of the Screen Blend Mode as well as some dodging and burning and Layer Masks.  The dodge and burn and masks are included because these techniques do not work in isolation - the best results are achieved when a couple of different techniques are combined.

Screen Blend Mode
Some Dodging and Burning and Layer Masks

Elements Darkroom
Page Links

The Steps

Blend Modes

Over Exposure

Under Exposure

Enjoy This Site?
Then why not use the button below, to add us to your favorite bookmarking service?

Return to top

Site build It!

Use the Contact Form to ask questions, provide feedback or comments.

Questions are good - so are comments - or requests!

Return to Photoshop Elements from Elements Darkroom
Copyright© 2009-2011.