Luminosity Explained: 7 Simple Tips to Help You Expose and Edit Your Photos

How bright should your images be? How should the luminosity levels in your image be balanced? And how do you make sure you get the right exposure to allow you to have the best chance of creating an edit that you love?

Luminosity levels in an image are so important but as photographers, we often forget that black isn’t always black and white isn’t always white. Increasing the shadow brightness or lowering the luminosity of the sky can have a dramatic impact on the overall feel of a photo.

I recently talked about this in the 18-minute video above and went through 7 simple tips to ensure you expose and edit your image as best as possible.

I have split them into 2 sections:

Exposing the Image

1. Dealing with a scene with heavy contrast. It is important that you get as much data as possible. A fellow photographer once said to me, “get the data and worry about it later,” which is good advice. When you have a contrasty scene (i.e. the histogram is touching both sides) then it is best to exposure bracket.

2. Exposing for a less contrasty scene. In this case, you want to make sure you have as long an exposure as possible to gather as much light (as more light means a better S/N ratio) but without blowing the highlights. This is called exposing to the right of the histogram (ETTR).

3. Don’t forget those small highlights. Sometimes a scene has small highlights (like dog fur or silver birch trees) that you can miss on the histogram. Don’t forget about them.

Editing the Image

4. The foreground doesn’t have to be a bright as you think. Consider the scene and alter the luminosity levels of the foreground and sky to match. A scene taken at night or dawn means the foreground may be dark.

5. Black isn’t always black. The next time you go out, look around and notice that sometimes the darkest tones in the scene aren’t black (the obvious example is fog). So don’t edit them to be black and understand that the histogram can have gaps at the LHS.

6. White isn’t always white. This is exactly the same as number 5 but for the highlights. They may not be white. Consider that.

7. Creativity matters most. There is no right way to create an image just ways that may not look great. But ultimately a scene can be edited to look good in hundreds of different ways so use your creativity.

I hope this helps. Think about luminosity in your images and this may take them to the next level.

P.S. If you enjoy the content then please sign up for more great tips and tutorials on landscape photography on my YouTube channel. I also have a free eBook on composition.

About the author: Nigel Danson is a landscape photographer based in the UK. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Danson’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.