While post processing a recent set of images I came across a few that had wild exposure differences. It was one of those classic examples of how a photographer can get lazy between shots and forget to change settings. I had shot a few images prior to these in the shade and the exposure was longer. The scene changed and I was shooting under the sun with no shade and I forgot to adjust my exposure.

The result was pretty obvious. A badly washed out image with little visible detail. Thankfully there was a way to salvage the image and thanks to the fact that I shot in RAW, the details were still there preserved in the image and could be (theoretically) recovered. The technique I used is called ‘Match Total Exposure’.

Case Study Demonstrating the Use of Match Total Exposure

Now, this is just one scenario when this technique is useful. You could use this in a million different other scenarios. Let’s say you are shooting in inclement weather and the light is changing fast. Or, you are shooting at late afternoon and the sun is going down fast with the light changing quickly with it. It means some of your images are going to be poorly exposed. Then again, if you are unsure of the right exposure in a specific lighting condition you could end up with a number of wasted opportunities.

Normally, when any of the above situations happen, you would concentrate on the ‘good’ images and push the ‘goofed-up’ ones for later consideration. That may actually never happen. You never know there might be a number of images that are actually good, except for the goofed-up exposure bit. But individually correcting each unbalanced exposure, and especially when you have been shooting all over the place, is extremely time consuming. Match Total Exposure in Lightroom can help you reduce that workload.

Let’s take an example. Here are the two images in question.

Match total exposure

The overexposed image

The first image is when I goofed up the exposure (yes I didn’t even pay heed to the exposure meter).

Match total exposure

The metered exposure

The second image is when I realizing my mistake adjusted the exposure. As you can see the two exposures are way off. Let’s see how Lightroom can adjust the overexposed image and make it reasonably close to the other.

how to use match total expsoure

The two images were imported to Lightroom to match total exposure

I imported the two images to Lightroom. Then I clicked on the image that I wanted the other images to match exposure to. Then I clicked on the other image. Next I clicked on Settings > Match Total Exposures. Voila, the exposure of the other image is matched automatically.

using match total exposure in Lightroom

Exposure of the two images have been matched

Check the above image. Notice how the exposure in the ‘goofed-up’ image was pulled down to -3.32 so as to make it close to what the exposure was on the other image. Since I realized my mistake only after one image, the amount of post-processing time I saved was negligible. Imagine how much time one could save if there were 20, 30 or even more images? Match Total Exposure comes very handy when you are shooting time-lapses, especially when you set your camera to aperture priority mode or even when you manually adjust exposure between frames and get some of the exposures wrong.

Ben Novoselsky

Ben Novoselsky

CEO and Founder at Phowd.com
Entrepreneur, geek, photo enthusiast.
Ben Novoselsky

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  • Simply put , this is called the Cost of Doing Business (CODB) and the best CODB calculator for photographers can be found at NPPA.org (The National Press Photographers Association). Her is the link: https://nppa.org/page/3275
    IF it doesn’t work, just go to NPPA.org and put calculator into the search box.

    Then join and organization that “has your back” – ASMP.org, APA.org, PPA, etc