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How do I fix an image that’s too bright? from Lightroom: Tips and Quick Fixes by Richard Harrington

How do I fix an image that’s too bright?

Exposure problems are one of the first things I tend to fix in an image. That’s because exposure affects everything else. Darken an image, and the colors get more rich. Lighten the image, and they tend to wash out. Let’s tackle some common exposure problems. Let’s switch the exposure problems group. And make sure that you’re viewing the images in the order that they were loaded. You could choose view, sort, file name. Let’s start with this first image here, which is a bit overexposed.

The camera was on the wrong settings, and I can see that looking at the histogram here, how all the data is slammed to the right. Ultimately what we want to do is balance things out a bit. I’ll go to the develop module, and I see the histogram. What’s nice is you can actually just click on the histogram and move things around. So notice, I just drag the mid-tones back to the middle. And with the raw file, it looks quite a bit better. Next to it is the highlights. So I can still pop the highlights, or recover them so that they are not quite as bright, and the whites are the brightest areas.

Same thing with the black point, and the shadows which we can lift up to bring back some of the details in the barrel. Now all of those adjustments are right here. You see that we’ve got exposure, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks. It’s the same thing here of moving that data around. Now that works quite well, and it gets you into the ballpark. If you pay close attention, you might’ve noticed that there are two triangles here. This shows you the clipping of the shadows.

So if the whites get too bright, you’ll see an overlay warning you that you need to recover those.Same thing, if the blacks get too rich, you’ll start to see cold pixels. So those overlays can really help give you confidence even if it’s hard to see exact details on your monitor. This next one is extremely overexposed. You’ll see the clipping indicators show us that there’s a lot of data blown-out. Remember, raw files are very flexible.

But even if it wasn’t raw, you still could recover some of this. What you want to do if you want to jumpstart things is just click the auto button here, and Lightroom will attempt to analyze the image, and that helped quite a bit. What I’m going to do now is pull a little bit more black in, minimizing so we don’t get too many cold pixels, but those shadows are okay. I can lift the shadows slightly. And let’s recover the highlights a little more, so we don’t have any blown-out pixels.

That looks a lot better. Now to finish it, a little contrast can help expand the dynamic range. And we just fill that in with some clarity and saturation to get a nice, rich color. If you want to see the before and after, one thing that’s quite nice is you can choose a split screen here. So you could do a before and after as a side-by-side comparison. Or take a look at it here with a split, so you can easily see the changes that you’ve made. But in this case, that’s a really big improvement.

And that’s the true power of raw. Remember, the histogram is your guide to knowing what’s going on in the image.