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December 16, 2014

12 Days of Tips #8: Matching Exposures in Lightroom

Sometimes you will end up with different exposures from the same scene. This can happen for various reasons. One reason could be that your camera read the scene differently due to very slight changes in lighting or subject position and adjusted settings to get what it thought was a correctly exposed image.  This is common when shooting in Auto or Semi-Auto modes such as Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority.

Match Total Exposure Example - Original Exposures

Shooting in manual mode is a great way to avoid this in the first place, though can still result in different exposures due to unexpected changes in lighting (such as clouds coming or going) and the photographer not adapting in time. Despite this manual is still often a better choice as your images will typically be more consistent if the conditions are the same and you can adapt when they do change.

Regardless of how you end up with similar yet differently exposed photos there is a Lightroom feature to help you get them back on track with a few clicks.

The Match Total Exposure feature will tell Lightroom to set the exposure of one or more photos to the same level as a photo you specify. To use it simply go into Grid view and select all the photos you want to match.  This can be applied to as many photos as you like, it’s not limited to one or two.

Match Total Exposure Example - Selected Photos

Once you have selected all the photos you want to match click on the one you want to use as your baseline.  By that I mean the photo that you want to match all the others to.  Lightroom will use this photo as the reference point when making adjustments to the others. This highlighting on this photo will be slightly brighter than the rest. See the right-hand photo in the example above.

Now just switch to the Develop module and select Photo > Develop Setting > Match Total Exposure from the menus. If you have the film strip visible at the bottom you’ll be able to see Lightroom making the adjustments as it goes.

Match Total Exposure Example - Setting

Voila! The other photo(s) are now match to the selected photo.  It’s not 100% perfect all the time but is a fantastic starting point and sure beats fiddling with multiple sliders just to get the exposure to a similar level.

Match Total Exposure Example - Final Results

While Lightroom has some amazing tools for making adjustments after the fact it’s always best to get things right in camera to save yourself time and increase the quality of your photos. Need some help? Sign up for one of our Exposure 101 – 104 introductory series to learn about exposure and the various shooting modes so you can take control of your shots! Already an exposure pro but need some tips on how to edit or organize in Ligthroom? Our Adobe Lightroom and Photo Critique and Adobe Lightroom – Intermediate Class and for you!


Missed your chance to get a zoom lens travel mug? Enter the draw for today’s and you can snag yourself a Nikon version.  It even zooms!

Nikon zoom lens travel mug

Nikon zoom lens travel mug

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