Quick Fix Fridays: Enhancing Shadow And Highlight Detail

When you think about it, every picture you have ever taken, and every picture you will take, has one main element: light. Break that down and you have two sub elements: highlights and shadows. When working on a picture in the digital darkroom, controlling and enhancing shadows and highlights is of the utmost importance.

Over the years, digital darkroom software has advanced when it comes to shadows and highlights control. Today, we can open up shadows and tone down highlights like never before.

I created the opening image for this post from the image directly above, taken in Tucumcari, New Mexico. As you can see, the highlights are a washed out and the shadows are rather deep. That’s normal in a very high contrast scene like this one. This shot, by the way, is the average (middle) exposure from an HDR sequence. I shot HDR because I thought I needed HDR to capture the entire dynamic range of the scene. Before going through the HDR process on my computer, however, I thought I’d see what Lightroom 5 had to offer in shadows and highlights control.

Here’s a Lightroom screen grab of my original photograph as shown in the Lightroom Develop module without any image enhancements.

Here’s a screen grab after I made a few quick adjustments.

This magnified section of the "after" screen grab shows my enhancements, which were: reducing the Exposure, reducing the Contrast, bringing down the Highlights almost all the way, substantially opening up the Shadows, increasing the Blacks — and finally — boosting the Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation.

Had the contrast been a bit greater, I would have needed HDR to create the image I envisioned. When in doubt, shoot an HDR sequence. But just for fun, experiment with an average exposure to see just how much you can open up shadows and tone down highlights in Lightroom 5 or your digital imaging program.

Have a fun and creative weekend!

Got questions? Drop by my website at www.ricksammon.com.

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