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brightness-vs-exposure-lightroom-video-tutorial Post Production Tips

The Difference Between Exposure vs Brightness in Lightroom 3

By Pye Jirsa on June 16th 2011

(The Lightroom video tutorial in this post is just under the introductory text below. The working files for this Lightroom video tutorial can be found just above the video.)

The question I hear most often regarding the Basic Panel’s develop settings is, “What is the difference between Exposure vs Brightness, don’t they do the same thing?”

While in general, both the Exposure and Brightness settings act to brighten or darken the exposure of an image, they both do it in a different manner.

In short, exposure has a heavier bias to highlight tones, while Brightness has no bias and affects all tones equally. This means that adjusting Exposure will affect highlights more in brightening or darkening an image than Brightness.

In this Lightroom video tutorial, we are going to discuss the differences between Exposure and Brightness in detail, as well as show you visual examples so that you can see the precise differences between the two settings. In addition, we will help you understand which situations you should be using Exposure over Brightness and vice-versa.

You can see the exported example files that we show in this tutorial by visiting our photo album on the SLR Lounge Facebook Page


Exercise File Download Links:

Note: These images have been provided to the SLR Lounge users curteousy of Lin and Jirsa Photography for educational purposes only. They may not be used in any other manner outside of these SLR Lounge learning videos without the express written consent of Lin and Jirsa Photography. Thank you.

Full RAW Exercise Files (265MB) – For faster connections. The full RAW files will allow you to follow the tutorials while achieving the exact same results as shown.
JPEG Exercise Files (24MB) – For slower connections. The JPEG files will allow you to follow the tutorials, although the results may vary due to not having the image details of the full RAW file.

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2) Student and Teacher Editions of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 – For teachers and students, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 is available for $89 through the Adobe Educational Purchasing Site.

Post Production Pye
SLR Lounge Senior Editor
Partner ofLin and Jirsa Photography

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Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Nice tutorial.

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  2. Lwashjr

    Please say again how to achieve a 1 (or 2) stop increase/decrease in brightness.  Is 50 to 100 1 stop?

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  3. Diego

    EXPOSURE sets the overall brightness of the image. One should use the RECOVERY slider to avoid the lost of details because of extreme highlights clipping. EXPOSURE by +1.00 is equivalent to increase the light of the camera by increasing the aperture by +1 F stop. Similarly, an adjustment of -1.00 is similar to reducing the aperture by -1 F stop.

    BRIGHTNESS just increases the brightness of the midtone colors (the central part of the histogram).

    I think that one understands better this things if one can knows what does the histogram mean.

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  4. Andrej Macko

    Hi, thanks :)! Btw: your voice reminds me on RadiantVista times :-o! Any connections to that site, it was a super nice one, sorry it’s gone :o(. Bye, Andy

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  5. Taj white

    this was awesome thanks so much. I have always wondered what the difference was. 

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  6. Carrie Novak

    Thank you so much for this!!!

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