Getting a correct exposure when taking a photograph is important, especially when you want to start processing your image.
‘Exposure’ is the amount of light that gets let in through your lens to the sensor. If you have a correct exposure, this means that your image will have details in all the shadow and highlights areas. This is ideally the kind of image you want – unless you are shooting specifically for high key or low key ( look at Gerry’s post on shooting a high key image for monochrome conversion ) as it means that you have more control and options when it comes to editing.
Lightroom’s Exposure slider on the Basic Panel enables you to add and subtract exposure from an image.
This means that if you have an image that is slightly underexposed, you can drag the Exposure slider to the right until the image lightens up to how you would like it to look. This also applies to slightly overexposed images as you just drag the Exposure slider to the left to make the image darken. This causes the shadow and highlight areas to deepen, whereby bringing detail back into the highlight areas that may have been close to loosing detail completely.
Here is an example of a RAW image that is ‘correctly’ exposed:
To show the effect of exposure on an image, I will be using this RAW file and adding one stop of exposure until the original image’s exposure is +5. I will also underexpose the image one stop at a time until the original exposure is -5.
[space height=”20″] As you can see, the more exposure the original image gets, it starts to lose more detail until the highlights are blown-out ( the red marks show the blown-out highlights from the image showing +5 ) and you can not recover detail from it. This is an example of the importance in getting the right exposure in camera. Although the exposure slider in Lightroom can bring back much of the image detail, if your image is too overexposed then there wont be information and detail to recover.
When we start working with recovering underexposed images, we start experiencing the same problems as overexposed images, except the shadow areas start losing detail and not the highlights.
The more underexposed your image is, the darker it becomes and loss of shadow detail is imminent. Like with blown-out highlights in overexposed images, when your image is too underexposed – no matter how much the Lightroom slider can recover your image – you will still not be able to recover the lost shadow detail (the blue in the last image).
The Exposure slider in Lightroom is a powerful tool. It can be used to recover detail in most images, unless it is lost. Try to take as accurate an exposure as you can as it just gives you more control over the editing of your image. Even if the image is under- or overexposed, do not worry. The Lightroom Exposure slider can lift and darken most images and make them look how you originally shot them to look.
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