Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Nailing Perfect Exposure in Lightroom

I'll be the first to admit that I have a problem nailing the perfect exposure for the final print, especially if that print is on paper.  Personally, I tend towards moodier images with more dark tones.  Computer monitors generate light, so images usually appear brighter on screen than when printed.  Combine my "mood" with physics of light and you can end up with seriously unhappy client.

Almost all non-professional printers (like those at Walgreens) auto adjust the exposure because of this.  So in many cases you're saved by technology.  But professional printers often don't (it's a mixed bag), and it's always better to be in control of your own exposure.

The rule of thumb I sometimes hear is to find the exposure you like, and then increase it between 1/4 and 1/2 stops when sending to the printer.  That's a good rule of thumb, but I think I've found a more precise way to ensure the skin tone in my portraits are properly exposed.  If we follow the Zone System, we know that skin tones should be between Zones 5 and 7 (depending on skin color).  I've always been annoyed that the histogram in Lightroom doesn't change when you zoom in, but it does change when you crop the image.  So to perfectly expose skin you simply need to crop in:

Then adjust your exposure watching the histogram.  The histogram is divided into four sections.  Perfect skin tones will reside between the mid point (Zone 5) and the third line (essentially Zone 7).

You can adjust the exposure while still in the Crop Mode, and then re-crop the images to taste.

Now for a quick tip:  while in the Develop Module, when you put your cursor over an area the histogram doesn't change, but the numbers below R, G, & B, will show their values.  You can quickly check the exposure by hovering your mouse over the area. 

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