How to nail down exposure


Lightroom’s ‘Basic’ console offers several exposure tools,

This is the image after exposure has been modified in Lightroom's Basic editing module.

This is the image after exposure has been modified in Lightroom’s Basic editing module.

After importing and sorting images from a shoot, the first step in processing any image is adjusting the basic settings. And the sliders in the “Basic” panel located along the right side of the screen make it so easy.

First, make any exposure adjustments needed with the exposure slider. But, honestly, I don’t usually mess with this slider at all — unless I’ve missed the correct capture completely.

Once you are satisfied with those adjustments, it’s time to drill everything down.

The first two sliders that need to be moved control the highlights and the shadows. Knowing how much to move these two sliders is very easy: Move the highlight slider all the way to the left, and then move the shadow slider all the way to the right.

You’ll see the highlights are clamped down a bit, while the shadows open up to provide some detail.

Next, move down to the sliders controlling whites and blacks so you have proper white and black points in the image. These adjustments are a little more involved and mandate that you watch the histogram at the top of the adjustments column (if you don’t see it, just hold down the command key on a Mac and click the zero key; control + zero on PCs).

This is how the image began. It was underexposed and needed some help, which was made possible by Lightroom CC.

This is how the image began. It was underexposed and needed some help, which was made possible by Lightroom CC.

Here’s what to do: Just hold down the option key on the Mac (us the Alt key on a PC) and click the “Whites” slider, and you’ll see your histogram go black. That’s good. Now, just move the slider to the right until you just begin  white areas appear. In general, you don’t want huge swathes of white; instead, move the slider until you just begin seeing those white spots.

Next, do the same thing with the “Blacks” slicer — but you’re going to move it to the left. So hold down Option on the Mac or Alt on the PC and click on the slider. The histogram goes solid white, so you want to move it to the left until you just begin seeing some black areas.

That sets your white and black points.

That’s it. At this point, you should have an image that has proper exposure and is ready for advanced processing to begin. We’ll look at some more-advanced techniques as we move along.

 

Watch the vid below to see these steps in action


About Andy Crawford

Andy Crawford has been a photographer and writer for more than 20 years, with thousands of images and articles published in magazines and newspapers around the country. He now focuses on Louisiana photography, landscapes, HDR photography, urban prints and other fine art photography. He also is a portrait photographer.