One of the biggest problems that lots of photographers face has to do with editing and recovering highlight details in an image. It’s tough to do due to the way that modern camera sensors work. All of this, quite obviously, starts out with efficient and proper metering.
Again: all of this starts off with knowledge of metering.
So to get more from your highlights it often means trying to under-expose your scene just a bit depending on the capabilities of your camera. When using Adobe Lightroom, you should know that there is more than one way to get more details from your highlights. Some of them you’ll be quite familiar with, but others you may not have known very much about.
As you read this: If you’re going through and find total confusion, try going to this link first.
Exposure Slider: The very first is quite obvious. It’s the exposure slider. To use this slider, just dial down the exposure and you’ll get more from the highlights. Since most cameras tend to retain more shadow detail, all you need to do then is push the shadows.
Highlights Slider: Before we go on, you should read this. According to Adobe:
“In the Basic panel, Highlights and Shadows serve as the primary tone mapping controls. They are sensitive to image content and edges within the image. They are effective at adjusting overall (global) contrast, while preserving local contrast. They are useful for tone mapping high dynamic range (HDR) images. They automatically expand their effective range when applied to high-contrast images (like HDR images), and automatically reduce their range when applied to low-contrast (e.g., foggy) images. The underlying mechanism behind Highlights and Shadows is generally known as “local adaptation,” which means that the controls do different things in different parts of the image. It’s as if each pixel has its own tone curve. In short, the Highlights and Shadows controls in the Basic panel are very “dynamic” in nature.
In the Tone Curve panel, Highlights and Shadows are much more straightforward or “direct” controls. They simply adjust a portion of the overall global tone curve. Unlike the controls of the same name in the Basic panel, the ones in the Tone Curve panel act globally, and do the same thing at every pixel. Their range is always fixed. They do not adapt automatically to image content in any particular way.
For these reasons, I recommend using Highlights and Shadows first in the Basic panel for primary adjustment, and then (optionally) using Highlights and Shadows in the Tone Curve for fine-tuning (later in the workflow). Put another way, we have the more adaptive, dynamic, “smarter” controls in the Basic panel, and the more low-level, direct, “standard” controls in the Tone Curve panel.”
So what does that mean? For general highlight recovery, use this slider but be conservative. It affects the highlights in general.
Whites Slider: Depending on how you exposed your image, Adobe may believe that the highlights can be associated with the whites. Try sliding the bar into the negative zone to get more from it.
Highlights Tone Curve Slider: Consider this slider to be about fine tuning the highlights as opposed to more the overall highlights.
Lights Tone Curve Slider: Like the highlights curve, consider this to be more about fine tuned adjustments.
Color Luminance Levels: Luminance has to do with the brightness of a specific color channel. This is the most specific way to recover highlight details by toning down the luminance.