Aug 21, 2012

How to Rescue an Image in Lightroom

Shoot in RAW

This will make your life MUCH easier when it comes to editing photos. The reason is because you have much more information in a RAW file, meaning you can fix overexposed and underexposed photos much more easily and accurately.

Combining Files

Make 3 copies of the photo in Lightroom and adjust one for the Highlights, one for the Shadows, and one for the Midtones. You can then open these as layers in Photoshop, and simply mask in the areas that are over or underexposed. You can check your Layer Masks by clicking Alt and the mask to make sure they are done accurately, and you can also make selections to paint in the areas with a hard edge.

Before and After

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  • user image
    Diego Tabango

    Hi Aaron,

    Thanks again for the wealth of info on this site. For this tutorial, to accomplish similar results, wouldn’t it be easier to just use the LR adjustment brush on the original RAW to tame the highlights or brighten the shadows?

  • user image

    Hi. I watched your video with interest, I have some tips I could share about fixing exposure in camera. Most photographers would not use this method. Clients would not pay money in a highly competitive market for someone to spend so much time fixing an image, that should have been solved by the photographer. Use a reflector or supplementary lighting to balance the lighting ratio, easy.¬†Stop using software to correct badly exposed images is my advice, this is bad practice and undermines the skills needed to understand lighting. The final result does not look natural. Light entering the camera can be controlled by variables, aperture and shutter speed, it’s not that difficult and was successfully done before histograms and LCD screens. Sorry to be negative but if ProTutorials are the aim here, lets start off with the right ground work.

      • user image

        And of course you’re not always in the studio. For the demo shot, sure, try and nail it first time. But if you just can’t – you’re out in the street, you’re at a wedding, you nail the perfect pose but your assistant dropped the reflector – well, sometimes you have to make up for that.

        • user image

          Really amazing tutorial Aaron. I dont have the bank to invest in lighting as I am just trying to get good glass for my camera, and I have been trying to figure out the best way to get these results. This was incredibly helpful. P.S. I just discovered this site today and I have been looking for a site like this for years. Please keep it free ūüôā¬†

    • user image
      Aaron Nace

      I totally agree that it is better to do correctly in camera, we chose an example that was¬†purposely¬†incorrectly exposed to help people when they don’t nail an exposure.¬†

  • user image

    How about duplicating the layer and using screen mode on the top one to lighten the image and then drag the opacity to suit. or, use multiply on the top layer to darken and then the opacity slider to suit. Obviously layer masks can also be applied. Amazing tutorials and love what you’re doing

  • user image

    I’m an amateur, so I’m not 100% sure that what I will say isn’t profanity.
    I’m also italian, so I’m 100% sure that what I willl say isn’t understandable. Sorry.

       A way I use to do this is to open the RAW image in ACR, then pump up the fill light to extract the details from the shadow. Desaturate and obtain a nice B/W image with the exposure you wish to achieve.
    Open in PS (if you’re still working in ACR), convert to RGB, import the RAW image again (in color) in a new layer.
    Put the B/W layer on top and change blending mode to “luminosity”.
    Fine tune with masks and curves.
       Advantage here is that you have only two images, so file dimensions and processing time (for you and for your machine) will be smaller. Also you can do the sharpening (if needed) on the B/W image, avoiding color artifacts.
    The downsides might be that you don’t have a “live preview” of what you’re doing, so it can be a more difficult technique to master.

    Of course, as someone else stated before, the best situation is when your photos are almost perfect in camera. But, according to my little experience, sh*t happens, so..

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    rahul dhakad

    can u please help me with this image?..its a pic from our last day of college..i don’t know what made it look overexposed…i have tried every single best photo editing expert and photographer near by and online as well. can u please take a look at’s a very important picture for our group.

    Photoshop Tutorials: How to Rescue an Image in Lightroom