landscape sun

Exposure – Bring in the light!

The exposure of your photo is essential for a beautiful print! When a photo is too dark / light, you lose detail during printing. That would be a real shame. But when is your exposure perfect? Check out our tips and learn how to get the optimal exposure!

Exposure

The amount of light that is in your photo is called exposure. You can have too much or too little of this. With too little exposure, you lose detail in the dark areas of your photo. The same goes for an overexposed photo, the detail in the highlights will disappear. For a good print it is a good idea to lighten up your shadows. This is because we often view our photo on a screen and the photo therefore benefits from ‘backlight’. The screen illuminates the photo, making the dark areas appear lighter than they actually are. By neglecting to adjust the exposure, you run the risk of losing detail in your print.

Step-by-step

  1. Does your photo match the moment you captured it?
  2. Are there any details in the highlights and shadows
  3. Check your Histogram
  4. Play with the Exposure, Whites, Shadows, Blacks and Highlights sliders
  5. Determine the correct exposure for your photo
  6. Save your photo

Histogram

A good starting point for your exposure is to view your histogram. A histogram indicates how many pixels are in your photo from black (left) to white (right). So a dark photo has more pixels (peaks in the graph) on the left side of the histogram. On the other hand, a brighter photo has more pixels on the right side of the histogram.

Clipping

You may lose some of the imaging information in your photo, this is called clipping. For example, if a shadow is 100% black, the detail is lost. You’ve reached the limit of that range. You can solve this by making the shadows lighter, getting some of the detail back. The same goes for the highlights: you can darken these slightly when the clouds in the sky are 100% white. Using this trick you get some of the details back. Keep in mind it is easier to regain details darker shades than overexposed shades.

Handy Tool

Fortunately, you can easily detect clipping in your photo by turning on the warning indicators. These are in the upper corners of your histogram in Lightroom. 100% black, indicated as blue and 100% white as red. The clipped sections become red or blue, depending on whether it is too dark or light. It’s best to avoid flooded zones. However, small pieces of clipping are generally aren’t an issue.

warning indicators exposure
In the above image, the warning indicators are shown, by clicking on them you turn them on.

How To Recover Clipping

Your photo may be too dark or light as a whole, don’t panic! You can adjust the exposure with the “exposure slider” in stops in the same way as the “exposure compensation” on your camera. This allows you to brighten or darken the photo per zone.

The total range from 100% black to 100% white is divided into the zones: black tones, shadows, highlights, and white tones. For example, if you have a shadow part that hardly contains any detail, you can make it a little lighter by moving the “Shadows” slider to the right. If you also have clipping in other zones then you do the same for those zones. You can also see if the “auto” function gives the desired result. This is usually too light because Lightroom brings everything back to the average gray value. This allows you to move the necessary zones to the dark side.

exposure sliders
By playing with the correct slider you can restore clipping and adjust the exposure as you wish

Exposure Curve

The Exposure Curve is a great tool to control your exposure while editing. This allows you to adjust the exposure curve in your photo. You won’t see the adjustments you’ve made via the sliders here.

Curve levels exposure adjustments
Do you want more control to optimise your exposure? Then use the exposure curve as shown above.

Tip! Prevent a dark print and brighten your photo. Your photo will appear to be slightly brighter on your screen compared to a print. This is because the pixels on your screen are illuminated.

Curious about all our tips on preparing for your best photo print ever?
Read the previous tips here!

Make your exposure optimal, share your photo and tag us on Instagram!