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Match Total Exposure aka. The Trick that Could Have Saved Me Hours!

I had a little incident with my camera recently.  I accidentally turned on the bracketing setting.  (I’m under a year with my new camera and still hit the wrong buttons all the time. Hopefully I am not the only one that does this!) That wouldn’t have been so terrible all by itself, but it happened right before a session and I didn’t know I had done it until I was in the middle of photographing.  During the session, I knew something was wrong but we were pressed for time/light and I didn’t have time to figure out the problem.

So I did what I thought best—I just kept shooting and made sure to take some extra. I would figure it out later.

When I got home I had a Lightroom Library filled with 50% good exposure photos and 50% unusable photos.  Definitely not optimal. I edited the best ones and tried to salvage the ones that I could.  The session turned out fine despite lots of extra editing time and worry.

However, a few days later, I learned about a trick that could have saved me TONS of time editing and probably saved several of the photos that I thought were unusable. So I am going to pass this important info on to you in hopes that it will save you time and possibly a session someday!

My Lightroom Filmstrip began by being filled with exposures that looked like this! Yikes!

To use this trick, you need to be in the Develop Module and have two photos selected that have very different exposures.  You’ll want to make sure the one you want both photos to look like is the one that is “most” selected.

Then go up to the “Settings” pull-down menu and choose “Match Total Exposures.”

When I did this with the photos that I took that day, it ended up rescuing every photo I took even though many of them looked so overexposed!! Check out how nicely Lightroom matched the exposure of the two photos!

I think there are still a few “hot” spots on faces, but I spent 2 seconds bringing down the highlights and it looked much better!

Magic? I say YES!

A few additional thoughts:

  1. I was shooting in RAW.  I am not sure if all the photos would have been as easily salvaged if they had been in JPEG.  Great recovery options are one of the biggest reasons I choose RAW over JPEG.  If you need more help understanding these options, check out this series all about RAW and JPEG!
  2. I think this could also work on photos that you were taking while shooting in one of the priority modes.  Sometimes those photos tend to vary a bit in exposure. I am totally trying it next time that happens to me!
  3. This feature has been in Lightroom since at least Lightroom 3 (how did I miss this!) so I think it should work for most all Lightroom users since I am guessing most us aren’t still using Lightroom 2 or the “original” Lightroom!


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