In this post, I’ll share a trick I use to get some adjustments “beyond” +100 or -100 in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw.
In the screenshot above, I like how most of the image looks — the bird and the branches are well exposed, at least. But the blue sky got blown out to almost pure white. I already moved the Highlights slider down to -100 and it’s still pretty white. I want to go past -100.
So grab the graduated filter tool — the G key or the button that looks like a vertical gradient in the row of buttons along the top. The sliders on the right change to the various things your filter can affect: highlights, shadows, sharpness, etc.
Right click on the minus icon to the left of the highlights slider. By right clicking, I not only move the highlights slider down, I also reset all other sliders to their default position. I then drag highlights all the way to -100.
Now I apply the filter by clicking very close to the bottom right corner, and then dragging the gradient diagonally off the bottom right corner of the image. There’s nothing special about the bottom right, the idea is just to start near an edge/corner, and finish just outside of that same edge/corner. That way the gradient crosses the entire image, and is at full intensity all the way through. The pink here is just a preview mask to show what part of the image is being covered… as you can see, it’s affecting everything evenly.
So now you should see the highlights drop a bit more than before. The -100 from the graduated filter, stacks with the existing -100 setting, to effectively give you -200 highlights. If that’s still not enough, you can just right click on the gradient’s starting point, and choose “duplicate”. Then you’ll pull down highlights even further. I repeated 2 or 3 times until I felt like highlights had been darkened enough.
The sky is a realistic blue again!
You can do this same trick to stack up almost anything past 100… clarity, sharpness, shadows, noise reduction, etc. Enjoy!
About the author: Matthew Lala is a photographer who enjoys making images of nature and wildlife. You can find his work through his Flickr account.