Use Lightroom's Targeted Adjustment Tool for Backlighting

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Lightroom Secrets is pleased to welcome guest blogger, Jill Levenhagen!

Jill Levenhagen is a photography blogger at JL Photography where she builds and offers templates for the Lightroom Print Module for free.  Her photography specializes in Seniors and her gallery website is here .

Jill is self-taught in Photoshop and Lightroom, and enjoys focusing on teaching new users getting started, when learning the basics seems like mountains to climb!  You can follow Jill at Facebook and @LRtemplates on Twitter.

Big thanks to Gene for letting me come and hangout with all you Lightroom lovers over here. Word is that you are here to get Lightroom Secrets? Well I want to share with you my favorite Lightroom feature: The Targeted Adjustment Tool. Now, I’m assuming that some of you have heard about it and some not at all. For this tutorial I am going to focus on my favorite use for this tool.

A mystery to many beginners in photography is mastering the technique of backlighting. Having beautiful evening sun in the background and your subject all outlined in it can be beautiful! But it’s not easy to expose for that. And while backlighting is essential to get right in camera (spot metering!), there is almost no way around some post processing…so the Targeted Adjustment Tool can help you do just that!

Let’s take a look at one of my backlit images in Lightroom. The problem we face in backlighting is varying exposure, especially in skin tones, so this is what we are going to fix.

Okay, so in this image, you will see that after I have adjusted my exposure as high as I want it for the entire photo, my subject’s face is still a little darker than I want it to be due to not wanting to overexpose the background. So, I go down to the HSL/Color/B&W panel. First I click on HSL. Under that there are four things to choose from: Hue - Saturation – Luminance - All . Since I want to “lighten” the pixels in the face, I choose Luminance. In the upper left hand corner of that panel is a tiny little Target icon (circled in red).

I click once on the Target to activate it, then move my mouse over to her face. Then I click and drag UP. As I drag up, the pixels that are similar to the ones in the target area are all lightened. So mostly the colors orange and red and yellow are affected with lighter tones and you will see the sliders for those colors in the panel change as you drag. You should realize that any other pixels in your photo that have the same tones will also be affected as well, so watch out for that.

Here is the Before & After:

So while it is difficult, even using spot metering, to get a backlit image exposed correctly in-camera, using the Targeted Adjustment Tool is great for subtle exposure changes in the subject’s face.

Now, you do some playing around with the Targeted Adjustment Tool. It also works for desaturating when you choose Saturation, and changing entire colors when you choose Hue. AND…there is also a Targeted Tool in the Tone Curve panel, so use that to Lighten, Darken, or adjust Contrast for targeted pixels. Let me know in the comments what you like best about this useful tool!

Jill Levenhagen

Jill Levenhagen is a photography blogger at JL Photography where she builds and offers templates for the Lightroom Print Module for free. Her photography specializes in Seniors and her gallery website is here . Jill is self-taught in Photoshop and Lightroom, and enjoys focusing on teaching new users getting started, when learning the basics seems like mountains to climb! You can follow Jill at Facebook and @LRtemplates on Twitter.