How to Fix Underexposed Photos With Lightroom

Restoring an underexposed raw file can seem daunting, but it's possible with the right tools and techniques. Proper editing brings out the hidden details and enhances the overall quality of your images.

Coming to you from Christian Möhrle - The Phlog Photography, this insightful video demonstrates how to restore an underexposed raw file using Lightroom. Möhrle explains his choice of a single raw file over HDR, citing long exposure for smooth water as the main reason. HDR and long exposure don’t mix well, especially with moving elements like leaves and clouds. Starting with the basic panel, Möhrle changes the profile to Adobe Neutral to reduce contrast, which helps retain details in highlights and shadows.

Möhrle adjusts the white balance to make the image warmer, fitting the sunset scene. This simple change brings out the natural colors. Next, he tackles the dark foreground tree by slightly increasing the exposure, then further revealing details using the shadows and blacks sliders. This method avoids blowing out highlights while improving visibility in darker areas. Raising the blacks adds a dreamy look, enhancing the image's aesthetic.

However, colors in the sky might seem lacking due to the profile used. Möhrle counteracts this by reducing highlights and adjusting contrast, texture, and clarity. He increases dehaze to add contrast and uses vibrance and saturation to restore colors.

Focusing on local adjustments, Möhrle uses masks to target specific areas. For the tree, he uses an object selection mask and a brush mask to increase exposure and reveal more details. He applies a linear gradient to the water, adding texture and clarity to enhance the wave lines. A radial gradient adds a glow effect to the highlights, making the image more appealing. Adjusting blacks and whites within this mask adds contrast and warmth to the bright spots.

He further refines the image with a variety other useful tools, particularly the Color Mixer and Lightroom's AI tools, so check out the video above for the full rundown from Möhrle.

And if you really want to dive into landscape photography, check out our latest tutorial, "Photographing the World: Japan With Elia Locardi!" 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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