As an available light wedding photographer, I often find myself dealing with high contrast situations. Usually the Bride will be dressed in white and the Groom dressed in black, and I will often find that the top table has been conveniently positioned in front of a large Georgian window, throwing the couple into nothing more than silhouettes without correct exposure correction. So throughout the course of a wedding day, it can often be challenging for a camera to record both details in the highlights and in the shadow areas within the same scene, especially without resorting to flash photography.
I overcome this both in the way I expose my shots, and the way I process my RAW files.
I mostly meter for the face, allowing the camera to overexpose slightly. This lifts the shadow areas (which is the area where most camera noise will be present) but in doing so it can burn out much of the highlight detail, the details of the dress for example. When processing in Adobe Lightroom I use the Highlight Recovery slider to make any global adjustments to the highlight areas, but I’m always careful with this as overuse can make the image look flat and dull.
I then use my custom Highlight Recovery Adjustment Brush to ‘paint’ back in selected highlight detail. Using a soft brush with a low opacity I ‘build’ the highlight details, going over and over areas until I have recovered sufficient detail.
Here are the settings for my custom Highlight Recovery brush
Then, any shadow areas that require a lift are treated in the same way using the custom Shadow Recovery Adjustment Brush. Be careful with your shadows though, as it’s incredibly easy to introduce noise into your image by brightening them.
Here are the settings for my custom Shadow Recovery brush
I hope you found this useful.