How Lightroom 4 Could Have Saved a Wedding Flash Misfire

How Lightroom 4 Could Have Saved a Wedding Flash Misfire

As a wedding photographer, there's a certain amount of pressure to get all the "key moment" shots throughout the day. Make sure you get the kiss, dances, tosses, cutting, etc... The list adds up quickly. Despite good preparation, dependable equipment, and anticipation of events,  every now and then you're probably going to miss one of these shots.

At my latest wedding, my second shooter had her flash misfire just as the bouquet dropped into the eager hands of the group of single ladies. I ended up getting a usable shot from my angle, but the point remains that the bouquet catch is a moment that can't be recreated and will probably be notably missed. Were there not two photographers, would I have been screwed?

Enter Lightroom 4. For kicks, when I began processing my images, I decided to see if the misfired flash shot could be recovered to the point where I could give it to the client. Here's what I started with.



After cranking up the exposure all the way (5 stops) and adjusting along with other settings, I still didn't think the image was bright enough. I exported, re-imported and added more exposure, reduced noise as best I could, and adjusted the luminance. Here's what I got.



No, it's not the prettiest picture ever and I would prefer a better one. In a pinch, though, it's usable.


Just remember, shoot RAW and post processing can save you =)


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Gary Simmons's picture

Wow...  I've never seen one so bad pulled back to that extreme.  

Patrick Hall's picture

Imagine what this would look like if say the flash had fired at even 1/32 of a power.  Pretty remarkable

Nicholas's picture


Still, you got A shot! Not the most technically perfect of course but still, you got that moment.  I'm sure the lady to the left with her hand on her hip would have preferred that you didn't get the shot of her looking absolutely disgusted that she didn't have a chance at the bouquet.  =)

And one more thing...
THIS is why you shoot RAW all you .jpg shooters!

This image should be posted on every forum where anyone asks "RAW or JPG?".  Here look at this, don't ever ask why again.  =)

I've done some under exposure recovery before but I never would have even thought to try something of that magnitude!

crazyness I tell ya

I have done this for a while with ACR with long exposure. Convert this to monochrome and get a vintage film look.

my question is why re-import it to add more exposure? why not just use the brush tool to add more exposure. granted you cant double up on NR or luminance.

My thoughts exactly, David.  Do a decent B&W conversion and the shot is that much better.  

Some folks will suggest that you can do the same with a JPEG shot, which is of course true to some extent, but raw offers so much more latitude.  I posted a similar "recovering from disaster" shot five years ago, showing both how well one could recover both from raw and from JPEG:

(That was with Lightroom 1's  render engine; I think the recovered versions would look much better with Lightroom 4's engine)

Also perhaps more interesting for day-to-day practicality is to see the difference between raw and JPEG when it comes to recovering highlights and shadows from shots that are over/underexposed by up to four stops. This post from three and a half years ago lets you interactively explore the differences:

One moral of the story is "shoot raw", though the higher-level moral is "don't screw up". :-)

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

Shoot RAW or film:
Recover 4EV from highlights-

Fetching image

Recover 4-5EV under exposed -

Isaac Singleton's picture

Shooting RAW has saved me more than once.