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Dark Photos Photoshop Tip (and Thai Shrimp Linguine)

I’m going to preface this post by saying that I am just about the last person in the world to be passing out Photoshop and food photography tips.  That may be the case, but I am going to do it anyway! My dear friend, Julie Lackey, who is an extremely talented portrait photographer, shared this tip with me awhile back and I have used it more than I ever thought I would.

One of the things I hate about the winter months in the midwest is how dark it gets so early in the evening. This frustrated me as a kid because it always meant we had to come in earlier from playing. Now, as an adult and one of those crazy people who can always be found taking photos of the food she cooks, the early sunset means that it is that much harder to get a good photo of dinner in the natural light. Around this time of year, a lot of food bloggers will be posting baked goods and desserts simply because it is too difficult to take a good photo at dinner time.

Enter my friend Julie and her Photoshop tip. This tip works if you take a photo and notice that the image is too dark, which usually happens when your flash is off and there isn’t enough natural light pouring in. I am not a techie, so please excuse my non-technical terms as I flubber through sharing this with you.

  1. Open your dark photo in Photoshop
  2. Up at the top toolbar go to the “Layers” tab and then drop down and select “Duplicate Layer”
  3. If your layers window isn’t open on the side of your PS main window, go up to the top toolbar, go to the “Windows” tab and select “Layers”
  4. OK – now that the layers window is open, you should see a drop down menu in it that shows “normal”. Click on that and go down to where it says “screen”. Your photo should brighten up immediatley. If it is too bright, adjust the opacity (located in your layers window) to a lower percent.
  5. Now, go back up to the Layers tab on the top of your Photoshop screen and drop down to “Flatten Image”
  6. If your photo still needs to be brighter, repeat steps 2 – 5.
  7. When I have the photo as I want it, I usually adjust the saturation slightly to give it a little pop of color and will also sometimes do a curve adjustment

The photo below was a prior version of the one at the top of this post. To save this photo from ending up in my computer recycle bin, I made the changes listed above and was able to salvage it. Many of you probably know this tip, but for those of you who don’t, I hope you found it helpful! Thank you, Julie, for sharing this tip with me and for allowing me to showcase my dinner in a new light.

What is one of your favorite photo editing tips?

And now for the recipe… a quick and easy one from Simple & Delicious magazine!

Thai Shrimp Linguine (from Simple and Delicious Magazine)

20 min | 5 min prep


  1. Cook linguine according to package directions, adding snow peas and linguine at the same time.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook carrots and mushrooms in oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add shrimp; cook and stir 3 minutes longer or until shrimp turns pink. Stir in peanut sauce; heat through.
  3. Drain linguine and snow peas; transfer to a serving bowl. Top with shirmp mixture; toss to coat.
Ahhh – I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention this! Did you know that my adoptee, Jessica of Apples and Butter, is one of the top five finalists for the Well Fed Network’s Food Blog Awards for best new food blog? If you haven’t already, head over there and give Jessica your vote!  I am so proud of her!

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  1. I’m one that does not like to take pictures at this time of the year, except as you said, of baked goods. I don’t have Photoshop and wish I did. Thanks for the tips.

    Hélènes last blog post..Tortilla Soup

  2. I use Picnik online photo processing. When you upload photos to Picnik, which is free for a basic subscription that has tons of editing options, you can select the ‘Exposure’ tab to lighten and enhance your pictures. You can also sharpen photos that might be slightly fuzzy and enhance the color of them. None of my photos would look even halfway as good as they do without Picnik. And it’s free!! Go to http://www.picnik.com

    Kates last blog post..Guys got game in the kitchen

  3. Wow, that really worked! Thanks for the tip. I now shoot my photos in RAW, which allows me to fiddle with the various settings. I found a lot of great tips from this post on No Recipes: http://www.norecipes.com/2009/01/10/adobe-lightroom-tutorial-aka-my-dirty-little-secret/comment-page-1/#comment-3654

    PaniniKathys last blog post..Bacon, Cheddar & Grilled Tomato Panini

  4. we have the opposite problem in Australia at the moment. being summer and daylight savings my kids refuse to go to bed before it’s dark and that is almost 9pm at the moment!

    btw- your thai prawns look amazing!

    MsGourmets last blog post..Mid-week Find – Lindsay Pemberton

  5. No way…that photo up top looks light it was shot in front of a sunny window! I don’t have Photoshop, so I just use either Picasa or Picnik to edit my images.

    Tanyas last blog post..Gooey Butter Cake

  6. I don’t have photoshop so I just hope there are leftovers to take a picture of the next day when there’s some natural light (albeit not much these days with the low cloudy skies)!

    Hopies last blog post..Obama Family Chili

  7. Oh, I can always use photoshop tips, thanks! I didn’t realize the trick was to switch to baked goods.. I’ve just pushed through with badly lit photos. Wish I had some to offer you….

    Julias last blog post..Craving Summer, Part I – Tater Tots

  8. I’m another one who doesn’t have photoshop… one day I’ll get it! I just have a white box made of foam board and two lights attached… that’s were most of my photos are done. Thank goodness for that, or my blog would have NO pictures at all! ;)

    patsyks last blog post..2008 Food Blog Awards – Voting is Now Open!

  9. Thanks for the great photo tip! I have the same problem with taking pictures too late in the day. I tried your tip on Photoshop Elements and it worked beautifully!

    Your dish looks delicious and your photo looks great.

  10. Thanks so much for that tip! I get so frustrated with the lack of light these days, I haven’t been posting as much as I would have liked. I’m definitely trying that right away. And the Shrimp Linguine too, boy, does that ever look good. :)

    LyBs last blog post..TWD – Orange Surprise Cake

  11. I am thinking of buying a photo shop software too, but don’t know it’s worth all that money. Picasa and Flickr lets you do most of the improvement to photos, which I use. Let’s see! :))

    Ashas last blog post..Deep pan Pizza Pie with Spinach-Feta filling and a dessert Pizza

  12. I’ve never done that to brighten up my pics. I always use the curve tool or the levels screen for that. Great tip, I will sure to try it out :D

    Bens last blog post..Pork enchiladas with creamy poblano sauce

  13. Great Photoshop tip! I’ve been shooting more in RAW, which requires lots of editing, and trying to cook more in the morning, too.

    Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)s last blog post..Other People’s Pantries #51

  14. Hi Kristen!

    Thanks for the interesting tips! I think that before try to use a image software editor is important to shot with good lighting (natural whenever is possible and in right angles) I’m not the best in capturing..must improve my shots but I manage pretty well this type of software for other uses, especially in graphic design!
    By the way sublime shrimp recipe :)

    Gera @ SweetsFoodss last blog post..Poll: How Important is Your Sweet Tooth?

  15. Yay, a secret tip that is going to help me SO much.

    Thanks for the recipe (I love anything with peanut sauce!), thanks for the photoshop tip (I’m terrible at futzing around on my own as a techie and learning these things), and I voted for jessica (good luck!).

  16. The shrimp linguini looks delish — I’m loving all the veggies! And thanks for that tip. It’s definitely much easier than what I go through with Photoshop to lighten up dark shots! Can’t wait to try it out.

    kellypeas last blog post..Jambalaya with Andouille Shrimp and Chicken

  17. Wow, what a change between the two photos. This is just what I needed to know over here in dark, dismal Scotland. I always find taking photos a real problem in the winter and tend to try and fit as much in as I can at the weekend. Thank you :)

    hollers last blog post..Curly Kale, Watercress & Potato Soup with Peas

  18. Incredible recipe, very healthy and easy to cook. I love thai food although some dishes can be a bit … spicy!

    Learn English Onlines last blog post..English Grammar Secrets

  19. Such an easy and delicious looking dish. I’ll be trying this one for sure. Thanks!
    I wish I had Photo Shop as my pics are too dark, but I’m also just learning to photograph food, so I’ve a long way to go.

    Lyndas last blog post..Buttermilk Biscuits

  20. More photoshop tips :)

    Instead of dragging through menus to duplicate the layers, just hit CTRL-J

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