You must learn how to properly set the Exposure, Blacks, Whites, Highlights, Shadows and Contrast sliders in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. All six of these essential sliders live in the Basic Panel in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic or inside of the Light Panel in the Adobe Lightroom CC for Mobile Applications.
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Learning to use these sliders properly is an essential skill because it is the combination of these six sliders that sets the overall exposure, or brightness, for our digital images.
The way that these controls are laid out in Lightroom Classic’s interface, you might think that you are supposed to start with the Exposure slider which is at the top and then work your way on down through this panel. I have to tell you though that is not my recommended workflow.
After a decade of experience with Lightroom, my advice is that you start with the Blacks and White sliders first and then you slowly work your way back up through these controls.
As a general rule, we want to push the Whites slider up to make the brightest parts of original raw image as close to paper white as possible. Next, we want to move the Blacks slider down to map the darkest parts of our original image almost all the way to inky black.
If you go too far when you are moving the Whites slider then you will eventually blow out some of the meaningful details in the brightest parts of your photograph. Likewise, if you move the Blacks slider too far to the left then you will end up crushing some of the meaningful details that were once visible in the darkest parts of your photograph.
Once you have established a black point and a white point with the Blacks and White sliders then you need to carefully position the Shadows, Highlights, Exposure, and Contrast controls to set the level of visible detail that you want to see throughout the rest of your image. In general, your image will lack visual strength until you move each of these controls so that your image’s histogram fills up the entire tonal scale which stretches from pure black all the way up to paper white.
I know that working with six sliders to set your image’s exposure sounds complicated but trust me. You can do this!