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Tips & Tricks

Match Total Exposure | The Underused Lightroom Feature You’ll Now Make A Staple

By Kishore Sawh on December 15th 2014

If you’re in Lightroom editing a session’s worth of images, it’s probably fair to assume you have implemented bracketing into your shooting. It’s also fair to assume you have a sequence of shots, even if not bracketed, that were taken in the same lighting environment and thus may warrant having the same exposure. You could go through each image and fine tune them, and judging by eye to see when they are balanced and equal, but there’s a much faster and exact way to do this, and it’s as simple as selecting and clicking.


The ‘Match Total Exposure’ feature has been hiding in plain sight, largely unknown and unused by a bulk of the Lightroom user population. What it does is allow you to pick an image of your choosing with the exposure just how you want it, and then with a click of a button will adjust a group of other images to match that precise exposure. It’s quite brilliant, and equally as easy.

This kind of feature is probably really appealing to anyone in the landscape or architecture world, but even for portrait sessions, especially with natural uncontrolled light and environments this has its use. I did a photoshoot recently in an empty townhouse with no electricity and only natural light, and the variances were high, but I’ve just applied this same feature to the set with much success. It’s impressive, and a true testament to the value and power of shooting in RAW.

[REWIND: An Easy, Future-Proof 4-Step System For Labelling Files & Archiving]


The approach is essentially the following: After choosing a base image and making adjustments to it if you like, hold the CMD/CTLR key and select the other images you want to be matched. These can be in the same bracketing sequence or not, and then go under Settings>Match Total Exposures, and Lightroom will do the heavy lifting for you, and in a blink.

Much thanks to Matt Kloskowski for bringing this to our attention, and for more from him and onOne do check out their site and YouTube channel.

Source: PetaPixel, onOne

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Michael Egbert

    Is this different from the variuos Sync features? It seems much easier.

    Nice explanation.

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  2. Richard Hammer

    I can’t believe I’ve never noticed that option before. I think I’ll explore the rest of the menus more and see what else I’ve missed!

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  3. Basit Zargar

    Great article !

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  4. Matija Vuri

    i wish lightroom makes some even better sync methods in future.. sometimes i have a big project with 3-4 photographers (and different bodys) and we make over 15 000 photos that need to be edited… especially for auto sync WB and tones..

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  5. Anastasia Borisyuk

    Oh my, I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could do this! Thanks for bringing it to my attention! Two years in Lightroom and STILL so much to learn :)

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Well I’m glad to be able to bring it to your attention Anastasia. We actually feature this tool in our Lightroom course, and if you want to really understand LR from the ground up it is worth time checking it out. Speaking of worth checking out, I could say the same for your portfolio. You do some really nice work – the photos from that wedding on the harbor are lovely. Well done! Cheers

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  6. Jill Schindel

    Hidden in plain sight, indeed! What an awesome feature! Thanks for bringing our attention to it. I tested it out while processing some family Christmas photos and it was a super time saver.

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  7. Andrew Van Arb

    Yes! this is a great time saver. Thanks Kishore.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I can only take a modicum of the thanks for highlighting the video. But i’ll take it! Cheers Andrew

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  8. Bill Bentley

    How does this vary from using the “Sync” feature, or does it? I guess there is less to go wrong with this method, since you don’t have to worry about the checkboxes.

    Always appreciate(d) these tips from Matt and Scott Kelby over on Killer Lightroom Tips.

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    • Nick DiGiallonardo

      The Sync feature will just copy the changes you made on image A to image B. If one image was darker to begin with then it is still going to be darker after you click Sync. All it is doing is copying the changes you made to the values.

      Try them both out and you will see how they are different.

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    • Bill Bentley

      Yes Nick, now that I’m home and have LR open I see what it does. I grabbed 5 frames and applied the “match exposure” command. 4 out of the 5 images ended up with different exposure values afterwards. Very nice tip. :-)

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  9. Vince Arredondo

    I really like this tip. It is going to be very helpful specially when shooting weddings.

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  10. Nick DiGiallonardo

    Just tried this and it’s pretty cool. I could definitely see this coming in handy and saving time fine-tuning.

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