How to Save a Terribly Lit Portrait in Adobe Lightroom

We have all taken a shot where the flash didn’t fire, we didn’t have any lighting for a sudden moment, or we just made a mistake. If the image is particularly nice in other regards, it can be disappointing. So, here’s how you can save portraits that aren’t well lit using Adobe Lightroom.

There are some mistakes that are borderline unrecoverable from, even with today’s exceptionally malleable raw files. For example, if you have blown out all the highlights there is little you can do to recover the detail. However, it’s rare that an image is so far off of the right settings that there’s nothing you can do with it, and that’s more applicable today than ever before.

When I bought my first DSLR, I immediately shot in raw after I was told to by an experienced photographer, and I’m glad he took the time to make me. However, the amount of flex in older raw files is tantamount to what you can do with JPEGs in many ways. You were able to raise the shadows a little or the overall exposure, but any dramatic changes came at the price of noise and artefacts all over the image. Now, the raw files have so much information, that a modern camera can shoot 2 or 3 stops under the correct exposure — and in some cases even more than that — and recover it in post to the point where it’s unnoticeable.

In this video, our friend, Pye Jirsa of SLR Lounge, teams up with Adorama to show how he made an underexposed, poorly lit portrait into something worth posting.

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