Photo editing can often be an exercise in perfection, and naturally we always try to get the best original exposure we can.

But it doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes we’re caught with only a “basic” camera — a mobile phone or a compact camera, or less than favourable lighting conditions (though situations like this are rapidly going away with massive improvements in high ISO performance).

Even so, some moments are too good to pass up. So we try to get the best image we can, and then try to see what we can get while editing.

That’s exactly what happened to me: So I found myself taking a night flight one day when I spotted some lightning storms just outside my aeroplane window. Not something we encounter every day. So I took a few pictures, shooting in raw, trying to block out reflections of the cabin in my window, and didn’t think much of it.

When I got reviewed the images they didn’t look like much at first, but there was this one image that I thought had something that captured the moment, but was terribly noisy (both colour and luminance) and not good quality wise to make detailed changes.

Moments like these are when I let go of that “perfectionist photographer” streak we all have, and just decided to mess around, to see what I could get out of the picture.

This videos is the result.

It’s not going to win awards, but I love the final image, and to me that’s often more precious than the validation of click or a “like”.

In this video I run through what I did with the image, what I bothered with (and what I didn’t), to get a black-and-white image that works much better than the raw image would suggest.

Here are some tricks I talk about along the way:

  • How much of the highlights should you “save” — 2:28
  • Why you might not want to apply noise reduction to a raw image – 3:59
  • What to do when you first enter the black-and-white conversion dialog, before you do anything else — 5:44
  • Creating a vignette with a simple curves adjustment layer — 8:07
  • When you should add MORE grain to the image — 10:58

I hope this video not only shows you how to deal with a poor original, but also inspires you to try your own experiments.

Would love to see what you come up with!

Want to learn how to use Affinity Photo better?

Want to learn how to use Affinity Photo better?

Subscribe to get FREE tutorials and resources in your e-mail. Simply enter your e-mail and click "GO!"

Great, you're in! To confirm, go to your E-mail Inbox and click the link in the e-mail we sent you.