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Quick Tip For Dealing With ‘Overlit’ Flash in Portraits

Hi Gang, and happy Monday. Here’s a quick tip I use when I over-light a portrait (hey, it happens). It uses a part of Lightroom you already know, but you just might have not thought to use it in this fashion, so I thought it was worth sharing.


Above: Here’s a shot taken at sunset where I clearly overlit my subject. It’s not supposed to look like I aim a Home Depot flashlight at his head, which is pretty much what this looks like — it’s way too bright (I just simply had the power of the flash up too high).


Above: Get the Adjustment Brush; double-click on the word “Effect” at the top left corner of the panel to reset all the sliders to zero, then drag the Highlights to left a bit, and increase the shadows a little bit (as seen above). I went a little farther than I should here to illustrate the point, but at least you get the idea.



Above: Here’s a before and after, after I toned down the Highlight amount to something more reasonable (in the previous image, I had it set at -39 but I adjusted it so it looked more natural and wound up at -23 on the Highlights). Again, it’s a simple little move, but I think it’s worth doing in situations like that.

NOTE: Lighting Stuff
I should have noticed that I was over lighting the image and turned down the power of the flash during the shoot, so in reality I shouldn’t have even had to deal with this in post at all, but there’s a bigger problem: I lit this portrait from the wrong side. You can see that the sunset is out over the water, and the light would have been coming from that direction, so and I should have lit it from that side which I think is a bigger issue in this case than the easy-t0-fix in Lightroom over lighting problem. Just thought it was worth mentioning.

If you get a chance…
I did a post over on my blog today about some of the cool stuff happening at the Photoshop World conference this summer, and of course, we have a ton of Lightroom training there as well (all day, everyday, in fact), so if you get a chance, I hope you’ll pop-on over and check out the latest news.

Hope you have a great Monday (I know, that’s easier said than done). 😉



P.S. Next week I’ll be in Birmingham, UK at The NEC for “The Photography Show.” I’ll be speaking on the “Super Stage” next Monday and Tuesday and I hope I get to shake your hand and say “Howdy!” while I’m there. Details on the event are here (it’s my first time, but everybody tells me it is an awesome show, so I’m really excited to be speaking there!). 




  1. Kritika 13 October, 2018 at 12:11 Reply

    At sunset, lighting changes very very quickly. The last thing you should do is calculate the fill. You should then recalculate it every minute of shooting.

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  4. Larry Coleman 16 April, 2016 at 08:18 Reply

    Regarding your comment about lighting from the wrong side, Scott, I don’t get it. It looks like the sunset is on the righthand side of the photo (same direction as the flash): that’s where the sky glow is brightest and where the clouds are more brightly lighted from the setting Sun. What am I missing?

  5. dwig 15 March, 2016 at 13:45 Reply

    This type of overlighting can easily be due to working too slow and doing things in the wrong order. It may well not be an issue with an error in calculating the fill.

    At sunset, lighting changes very very quickly. The last thing you should do is calculate the fill. You should then recalculate it every minute of shooting. If you calculate the fill first and then work on the pose the lighting will be different when you get around to actually shooting.

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