Today was supposed to be a podcast release day, but after some technical snafus with my FTP client, that had to be delayed for a short time – look for that to come out on Monday.  For the time being though, I’ve bumped a post from next week up to today – so enjoy the look at some of the more popular Lightroom sliders!

The back story behind this most comes from one of the more common questions I get these days about Lightroom.  It comes in the Develop Module and confusion about the difference between the Exposure slider, the Fill Light slider, and the Brightness slider.

It’s easy to see how there could be confusion when you start pushing sliders to their extremes, because at the higher levels, the impact does seem the same.  However, when kept within their intended parameters, these adjustment sliders all impact different areas.  Specifically:

  • The Exposure Slider adjusts the brighter tonal portions of an image
  • The Fill Light Slider adjusts the shadows or darker tones in an image
  • The Brightness adjusts the mid-tones of the image.

To better illustrate, take a look at the images below.  First up is the default in camera settings:

Normal Exposure

See how the shadow detail is completely lost?  Having exposed for the sky, the camera was unable to capture the shadow detail sufficiently to reveal anything.  When you see this, often the natural inclination is to increase the exposure to try and bring back the detail in the shadows.  So, let’s see what happens…

Increased Exposure 1/2 stop

See how the only area really affected is the part by the setting sun?  I’ve increased the exposure by one half stop.  Since that’s not much of an adjustment let’s take a look when we dial things up a bit more.  Here’s the next image, with the exposure increased by a full stop:

Increased Exposure Full Stop


Now it’s just starting to look a little garish, and the appeal of the image is nowhere near even what the defaults were.  I could further prove the point by showing another half stop increase in exposure, but I think you probably get the gist.  So, let’s take a look at the Fill Light slider and how adjustments there affect the image.

Fill Light +25

Here I’ve increased the Fill Light to +25.  See how the area around the setting sun hasn’t been affected?  We don’t see much of a change yet, but watch what happens when we increase the slider some more.  Here’s the same image at +50.

Fill Light +50

If you look at the mountain, see how we’re starting to see some separation from the lower one in front and the one behind it?  You can see the tree line now!  This actually (I think) adds some depth to the image that wasn’t there in the original.  This is a great example of how the Fill Light slider is bringing back shadow detail in the image.

So, now that we see difference in the shadow detail, let’s take a look at what the Brightness Slider does.  As I said above, it doesn’t address the lightest tones or the darkest tones in the image, but rather tries to pull out detail from the middle tonal parts of the image.  Let’s take a quick look at that too, just to illustrate the differences here.

Brightness +75

It’s worth noting here that by default, Lightroom puts an image at +50 on the Brightness slider, so an increase to 75 here isn’t that much of a change, but we are still seeing some subtle changes in the cloudy part of the sky.  That makes sense as this is where the mid tones are for this image.  It’s even more evident though when we adjust the brightness up another notch to +100.

Brightness +100

That sky is starting to look just about perfect for my tastes.  I could take it a notch further but again, hopefully by now you get the gist.  What’s important here to note though, is that there is no single slider adjustment for any given photo that will make it “perfect”.  Instead, it’s almost always a combination of post processing adjustments in not only the exposure, fill light, brightness, and even others that will take your snapshots and make them great shots.  For me, the end result here, is a combination of all three of these sliders, and a dash of some other adjustments to make it what you see below:

Final Adjustments

Here, I’ve done some adjustments to various sliders.  Can you tell which ones I’ve used and to what degree?  Hopefully after today’s post, it’ll be easier to tell in the final image – and in your own images!  Take some time and play with your own images inside of Lightroom and see what it can do for you!  Have a great weekend, happy shooting, and we’ll see you back here on Monday!

One thought on “Lightroom Slider Questions

  1. I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful info I was looking for this info for my mission.

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