Understanding how to utilise and adjust lighting in a scene can greatly affect the final outcome of your images, truly differentiating your photography from everyone else’s. This guide will show you how to use the Light Panel in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to experiment with lighting and take your creativity to the next level.
What is exposure?
Exposure refers to the amount of light which reaches your camera sensor through the lens. It is a crucial element for how bright or dark your photograph will appear.
You may have heard the phrase “the photo is underexposed/overexposed”. This means the photo is too dark or too bright. It can be harder to adjust an underexposed or overexposed photograph in post-production, as both situations mean that details and information within the image may be lost.
It’s crucial to understand how to take photos with the correct exposure setting in camera and not rely on post-production to try to recover information in the dark and light areas of an image because if the information wasn’t captured in the original photograph, then no amount of adjustments will be able to bring the details back.
See more about how cameras control exposure using ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.
Measure the contrast of lighting with dynamic range
An important concept when trying to control lighting in photography is dynamic range, which is the difference between the lightest and darkest values in a scene. Essentially, it is the measure of contrast in lighting. It is crucial to understand the scene’s dynamic range and the dynamic range your camera lens can record in a single exposure, to ensure that you capture as much detail as possible and minimise loss of information.
Many digital cameras have options to capture in a high dynamic range (HDR) mode, where a camera automatically takes various photos at once and merges them together for optimised detail. You can also capture multiple photos with different exposures and combine them in post-production using Photomerge.
What is a Histogram?
A histogram is a visual representation of all the pixels in an image that is used to help gauge exposure and dynamic range. The X axis, the left-hand side of the graph, refers to blacks and shadows. The right-hand side refers to whites and highlights and the centre of the graph refers to midtones. Then on the Y axis, the values refer to the frequency of that specific tone within the photograph.
Ultimately, it is a graph that shows how many pixels of each specific brightness value is found in a photo. You can use the histogram to determine if an image has too many bright or dark values or if there are areas in the image that are pure white or pure black. By observing the concentration of data on the graph, you can see areas that may be without detail because of improper exposure or because of too great of a dynamic range in the original scene.
To view a photo’s histogram in Lightroom, simply click the three-button icon on the right-hand side and select Show Histogram. The Histogram will then appear at the top of the Edit panel.