Recover overexposed images to create stunning images

How many times have you accidentally captured an overexposed image or an underexposed image? It is good to capture multiple images and experiment with different camera settings? That’s good. Well, these images look good when you look through the small display in your camera but when you download the image to your computer, the image can be one of the three – normal, overexposed, or underexposed. You can always check your camera histogram and make out if you have captured underexposed or overexposed images and adjust the camera accordingly to get the best photo.

What is an overexposed image?

Overexposed images occur when too much light strikes the film or, in the case of a digital camera, the sensor. Overexposed photographs are overly bright, lack clarity in the highlights, and seem washed out. These photos are rendered useless.

Roopkund Pathar Nachauni to Ghairoli Patal
Mt Trishul, Snow-white mountains that are overexposed

Is it better to be overexposed or underexposed?

If you’re shooting JPEG, the conventional guideline is to underexpose since if you lose the highlights in a JPEG, they’re gone, unrecoverable. When shooting raw, the usual guideline is to overexpose the image to bring more light (exposure) into the shadows.

How do I fix overexposed photos?

Overexposed photos are overly bright, making even the darkest side appear brighter. If you captured this photograph in RAW format, there is a technique to correct it. You can repair it even if the image is in JPEG, but the outcome will be inferior since JPEG files are already compressed and include only 250 layers of color/brightness, whereas RAW images have thousands. Because JPEG is a compressed picture, the image information is already destroyed, and there is no method to retrieve the lost data in the image.

To recover overexposed images that you have captured follow the following steps:

  • Import the overexposed image to Lightroom or Photoshop using direct method or using bridge.
  • Select the image and go to ‘Developer’ mode.
  • For most of the overexposed images, histogram will have a peak to the right corner.
  • If there is a peak to the right and empty space to the left, then move the ‘Whites’ slider to the left.
  • If there is a peak to the right and the space to the left of histogram is not empty then try moving the ‘Highlights’ to the left instead of ‘Whites’.
  • Even after decreasing the ‘Highlights’ and ‘Whites’ if the histogram shows peak to the right or if the image is too bright then try to bring down the ‘Exposure’ component by moving the slider to the left.
  • To give additional effects to the dark areas, try increasing the ‘Shadows’.
overexposed images
Post-processing using Lightroom

The options are almost the same in Lightroom and Photoshop. If you are using an older version of Photoshop or Lightroom, then the sliders might have a different name and also, the sliders. The same applies to many of the online photo editing tools. See that you try to bring the histogram peak from the right corner to somewhere in the middle and not spikes to the left or right corner of the histogram.

Use of ND filters to avoid over exposure

The other alternative is to experiment with ND filters, particularly when taking long exposure shots in daylight. Cloudscape shots can be taken both at night and during the day, however, taking a long exposure shot during the day will require a higher-stop ND filter to exclude extra light entering the sensor and avoid overexposed images. It is always preferable to get the image correct on camera rather than in post-production. Read more on – Capture Cloud movement using ND Filter.

ND filter
Some of the Lee Filters

In-camera technique

Most cameras these days have a function that allows the overexposed region of the image to be emphasized with flashing lines in the live display on the backside of the camera. This is quite useful since you can quickly tweak the settings or change the angle to obtain better photographs. Always attempt to get the image correct in camera rather than in post-production. This feature is now available in action cameras such as the DJI Action camera.

AI-based photo editing

Today’s AI-based editing technologies are so advanced that you can replace the entire overexposed sky with a different one and entirely change the aesthetic of the image. Even sky reflections on the water surfaces are handled using AI-based editing tools without spending too much of your time. Luminar AI is one such AI-based photo-editing application that performs an excellent job of modifying photographs while also saving time. This editing tool outperforms many of the existing well-established picture editing companies on the market, and they aren’t even close when it comes to AI-based editing.

Hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and start practicing to capture photos and edit like a Professional Photographer. Buy me a coffee to support my work or you can go to my store to buy some of my images. Also, do not forget to join my FriendZone by signing up for my newsletter. Consider subscribing to my YouTube channel.

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One Reply to “Recover overexposed images to create stunning images”

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