Exposure vs. Brightness vs. Fill Light

Exposure vs. Brightness vs. Fill Light

Do you know the difference between brightness, fill light and exposure? When editing your photos in Lightroom, Photoshop, ACR, etc. it can seem that playing with certain sliding bars all produces the same result: your photos get brighter. But what’s actually happening and how do you know which to choose?

Exposure – Shifting your exposure is like changing the in-camera settings in post-production. To be more technical, it scales the settings up and down by a constant multiplying factor. Moving this slider either increases or decreases all of the elements that go into obtaining the correct exposure at once.

Brightness – Brightness is commonly known as the slider that adjusts the midtones. And although many people think that this is all the brightness sliders do, there’s a little more to it. All of the settings still change when utilising the brightness slider, but it preserves the highlights better than simply dialing up the exposure. And it affects the midtones more nicely than pumping up the exposure.

Fill light – The fill light slider brightens the dark bits and pretty much leaves everything else alone unlike brightness and exposure which lighten everything at once. Adjusting fill light can be a good way to lighten a photo without clipping the highlights.

Knowing how different adjustments are affecting your work will give you more power to make informed decisions about how to treat your shots in post-production. Have fun!

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Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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