Match Total Exposures in Lightroom

Hi Folks:

There was a video tutorial recently on The Digital Photography Connection on using the Match Total Exposures tool in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.  It’s something I’d not used before, and if you haven’t either, I’d suggest you begin by watching their tutorial.  I’ll wait…

Okay, welcome back.

Now, after seeing this video one question I had and one I also saw on Twitter was, “How is this different from the ‘Sync’ button in Lightroom?”  If you’re new to Lightroom, one of the software’s features is the ability to batch process images by ‘developing’ one image and then transferring all or some of those settings to the other images in the batch of those selected.  For more on using Lightroom, I suggest checking out the tips, tutorials and videos here.

To illustrate this, I made four images of a phone booth I found downtown, all at slightly different exposures.  The images were made hand-held so they don’t line up exactly, but they’ll be sufficient for our purposes.  Here are the four original images:

Phone Booth - OriginalNow, I took the first image (upper left) and decided it was a little dark, so I increased the Exposure by 0.5 stop.  I then used the Sync button to apply the same settings to the other three images.  They results look like this:

Phone Booth - SyncAs you can see, the second and third images are now overexposed from this 0.5 stop increase.

So, how does Match Total Exposures differ?  Well, it appears that Lightroom attempts to balance the selected images so that they have, as the tool implies, the same overall Exposure.  As before, I applied a 0.5 stop increase in Exposure to the first image, then went to Settings/ Match Total Exposures.  The results look like this:

Phone Booth - Match Total ExposuresAs you can see, Lightroom has adjusted the Exposure settings of the images to give them the same overall look.  The actual Exposure numbers are:

  • 1. +0.5
  • 2. -0.65
  • 3. -0.68
  • 4. +0.32

While not perfect, the four images now much match each other much more closely.  Now, the Match Total Exposures tool only adjusts the Exposure setting.  Having said that, I tried resetting all of the images to 0 then increasing the Brightness value from 0 to +50 on the first image instead.  I then ran Match Total Exposures again.  The Exposure slider ‘mostly’ affects the highlights, while the Brightness slider ‘mostly’ affects the midtones.  The results look like this:

Phone Booth - Match Total Exposures (Brightness)While there seems to be more discrepancy between images, if you look at the brightest portions of the images you’ll see that they’re pretty well balanced.  The actual Exposure numbers are:

  • 1. 0 (Brightness +50)
  • 2. -1.15
  • 3. -1.18
  • 4. -0.18

So there you go.  It’s best to use a tool for the purpose for which it was designed.

BTW, after creating an HDR composite in Autopano Pro from three images (captured at -1/0/+1 ) and pushing it around in Lightroom for a bit, the final image looks like this:

Phone Booth

Now go out and make some photographs!


P.S. You can find more of our posts on photography and Lightroom tutorials here, and you can find links to over 200 other sites that have Lightroom tips, tutorials and videos here.

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