How to Fix Harsh Sunlight in Lightroom

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When you are out capturing pictures at midday, one thing can make it very difficult to capture photos: the sun. Sometimes, taking harsh photos is unavoidable, so knowing how to fix harsh sunlight in Lightroom is a great post processing technique to master.

How to Fix Harsh Sunlight in Lightroom

You can fix harsh sunlight in Lightroom by first familiarizing yourself with what you might need to fix in your images. Then use presets and see if they solve the problem. After that, activate clipping indicators and adjust the HSL sliders, brighten the shadows. At the end, use that adjustment brush to edit specific areas on the image.

An image on how to fix harsh sunlight in lightroom

Step 1: Identify the Problematic Areas

Before fixing harsh sunlight in Lightroom, you must know what areas you have to fix. Although harsh lighting can work in some images, it can ruin others because it creates intense highlights and shadows.

Harsh sunlight can create hotspots that might cause your image to look brighter in some areas than others. Also, it might create unwanted shadows that, again, make the picture look unattractive.

Step 2: Use Presets

To cut down on editing time, you should use presets. Lightroom has a huge collection of presets that you can use to adjust the harsh sunlight. You will find both paid and unpaid presets that will decrease your editing time and take care of the poor conditions on your image.

To use presets follow these steps:

  1. Go to the preset tab.
  2. Select a preset from many choices, ideally looking for one that decreases brightness. There are presets on the specifically made for this purpose such as the Allegra Messina Harsh Preset.
  3. Apply it to your image.

Step 3: Activate Clipping Indicators

Before starting to manually edit images, activate the clipping indicator. This tool in Lightroom allows you to see the areas which are too bright or too dark. To activate this, go to Develop and click on the Histogram panel.

Here, you will be able to activate Clipping indicators. You will see two indicators: blue and red. The blue area will show the parts that are too bright. On the contrary, the red areas will show the parts of the image that you have lost to the shadows. This will give you a good idea on which areas to work on.

Step 4: Adjust the Exposure Slider

The first thing you can do is find out what details can be recovered in the image. You can use the exposure slider for this purpose. You will find this in the Basic Panel. If there are too many shadows in the image, slide the exposure slider to the right.

An image of lightroom

Doing this decreases the darkness of the shadows and recovers some of the details of the image. There is no specific range; just increase it until the shadows get a little brighter. However, make sure that the rest of the picture does not get over exposed.

If moving the slider loses the details in the rest of the image, then choose another strategy.

Step 5: Adjust the Highlighter, Shadow and Contrast Sliders

After you have used the exposure slider, use the highlighter, shadow, and contrast sliders. Follow these steps:

  1. Adjust the highlighter slider to recover some of the highlights in the photo. Moving it to the left will recover some of the details lost when you moved the exposure slider. However, move it slightly.
  2. If the exposure slider was not sufficient to fix the picture, work specifically on the shadows. Move the shadow slider towards the right to recover details lost in the shadows.This brightens the darker parts of the image, and now the picture might look softer in general.
  3. After adjusting these settings, you might notice that the picture might look a tad bit flat or lacking in contrast. Here, you can use the black slider on the Basic Panel. Move it slightly to the left to bring more contrast.
  4. Alternatively, you can use the tone curve. This curve allows you to make your images darker or lighter and impact the contrast. Pulling up the highlighters on the right side of the curve, and pulling down the shadows on the left side will allow you to bring back the contrast. This will add a bit of depth in your image.

Step 6:Adjust the HSL Sliders

The HSL (hue, saturation, and luminance) sliders are a good way to improve the colors of your image. You will find these sliders in the Basic Panel. Your picture might have a very warm or greenish color depending on the place you were photographing.

This happens because the sunlight bounces off the ground and spreads that color all over the image. You just need to figure out which of the colors is overwhelming. Then choose that color and bring down its saturation using that slider.

You can then use the hue slider and adjust colors further if you are not satisfied. This will ensure that the colors of your image are not too warm or overwhelming.

Step 7:Use the Adjustment Brush

If there are some areas of the image that you feel still need some work, you can use the adjustment brush to work on those particular areas. It could be that there are some leftover shadows or some very bright areas. This is particularly useful when working on the face.

Choose the adjustment brush and highlight the area you want to work on. Then you can adjust the sliders solely for that area. Thus, you can adjust the exposure, shadows, and contrast of that area to bring out the details.

Moreover, you can use this brush to add or lighten a particular color on the image too.

An image of editing in lightroom

Step 8: Use Color Grading

The color grading feature in Lightroom (previously the split toning tool) allows you to change the colors in an image to create a stylistic impact. After using all these tools, you can use the color grading tool to adjust the colors.

Using this feature, you can change the overall tone of the image. For example if you have captured a photo at a beach you can increase the saturation and get the colors to connect with each other using the blending slider.

Moreover, you can use the luminance slider to further lighten or darken your image if you feel it does not look good.

Related Questions

How Do I Soften Light in Lightroom?

To soften the light in Lightroom use the contrast, clarity, texture, and dehaze tools. Use these tools one by one and see what suits your picture the best. Not that these tools will be making adjustments to the whole image.

When you are done with that, use the adjustment brush to select a particular area and make changes to that area.

How Do You Light up a Dark Photo?

To light up a dark photo in Lightroom the first thing that must be done is use the exposure slider and slide it to the right. This will work on increasing exposure to the whole photo. After that use the highlight tool and contrast to improve the colors and lighting further.

To work on particular areas, you can use local adjustment tools. This includes an adjustment brush. Highlight the particular area and make adjustments accordingly.


Fixing harsh sunlight in Lightroom can be as easy as applying a preset. If that does not work for you, you can start making gradual adjustments by first using the sliders and then more advanced tools such as color grading and adjustment brush. Top it all off using the dehaze tool.