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Can I rescue horribly over-exposed pictures?


TPF Noob!
Oct 1, 2010
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Kent, UK
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Just as the title says really!

I was out today and took a good few snaps before realising my camera was on the wrong setting and all the pictures were being over-exposed :gah: Some of them could be really nice too!

Such a rookie mistake and I'm feeling very annoyed with myself right now! :thumbdown: Question is ... can I rescue them?!

I have Photoshop CS2 and a trial version of Lightroom 3.2. Where do I start?!
hmm can u post the pic? Usually no, because the info is lost in those spots....u can do more with an underexposed image than over exposed
If you took the shots in RAW mode you have a chance at saving some of the overexposure - just load the shots into the RAW processor and pull the exposure slider to the left to lower the shots overall exposure. However its only a small buffer and totally overexposed areas will simply be pure white with no details to restore.

If you've shot in JPEG you can try to lower the brightness of the shot to show up details -but again if its pure white that is all you will have sadly.
Here's one of the pics:


It's not total "nothingness" but as you can see, it's pretty bad (this should be a flock of geese landing on a lake). Unfortunately I'm not shooting in RAW as this was on "P" mode only (I'm just learning) and I don't think you can have JPEG+RAW set up on "P" mode.

Thanks for any help. Hopefully this is the kind of mistake you only do once! ;)
Well that's frustrating.

I want to see a photoshop guru go at these. I can't see a whole lot being saved though. Bummer.
Lightroom can save over/under exposed by 2 full stops if you shot in raw I believe.

A popular statistic... but one that leads to many misconceptions. It really depends on just how over-exposed the image was at the time of capture.

Areas that are blown out pure white aren't recoverable under any circumstance... because there is nothing to recover. What will happen oftentimes is that Lightroom will pull back details surrounding the pure white areas, but merely turn the pure white highlights grey (for example, using the Recovery slider). To boot, the areas immediately surrounding the blown out highlight, while admittedly revealing some detail, will exhibit ugly posterization that cannot be fixed. Again, this occurs because there is minimal available data for staging the recovery.

I would agree that Lightroom can save photos that are over-exposed by 2 stops... but a shot can over-exposed a good deal without actually blowing out highlights.

Blown highlights are blown... they really can't be saved.
Not sure how one can overexposed something that much (not involving flash or additional lights). I've overexposed images like that, but I realized it after a couple of shots because I put it at the wrong setting. Do you even look at the meter? Dont use the manual if you dont know how. Just saying...
Woah, that is more than over-exposed! Unfortunately, if you have shot all of your pics in JPEG, then most of them are probably non-fixable. But I'm quite sure you can shoot jpeg+raw in P mode, so is in Tv, Av and M.

Here is the most I could do:

Basically, there's nothing you could do about the white areas, because they're purely white in the first place and contain no details.

Don't you normally review your photos after you've taken them?
Not sure how one can overexposed something that much (not involving flash or additional lights). I've overexposed images like that, but I realized it after a couple of shots because I put it at the wrong setting. Do you even look at the meter? Dont use the manual if you dont know how. Just saying...

As I said, I am still learning. I took my first DSLR photo 4 weeks ago, so I don't think I'm doing too badly - these photos aside. I check the screen after every picture I take (excepting something like these geese landing where I take a few in quick succession) but it was a particularly sunny day so I initially thought the image not showing up clearly was due to the sun reflecting off the screen. It's the first time I've been out in sunny conditions so I didn't know how the pictures on the screen would look. I'm not using full manual either. I had been playing around with the apperture priority "Av" mode yesterday taking some pictures indoors and the camera was still on this setting when I started taking these (sorry - not "P" as I previously said).

It's a stupid mistake to make, but I'm sure you made some stupid mistakes in the beginning too! And isn't that how you learn in any case?!

Maybe I can't retrieve anything, and if not it's a shame. But it's a lesson learned and I won't do it again (for a while anyway ;) )
Thats what I was saying. . If you had it on AV.. your camera shouldnt take photos way overexposed like that unless your built in flash is popped up so the camera cant go faster than 1/200.
if you took these in av, shouldnt the camera meter for you? it shouldn't be that overexposed.
damn thats a rough one.
i dont think much is gonna come outta that.
Even in AV/TV you can still overexpose if the settings are set incorrectly (eg using exposure compensation to overexpose)

When it comes to the LCD viewing however I strongly recommend reading in your manual to find out how to display the histogram when you review shots. The histogram is a fantastic tool and quite simple to learn to use - essentially is a barchart that shows you the distribution of the brightness in your shot - with pure black at the far right and pure white at the far left of the scale.

Thus when you review a shot with the histogram showing - such as for the shots above - you would see a strong peek at the right side of the graph and (with most DSLRs) the preview image in this mode will also blink black and white in the overexposed areas to mark them for you. That makes it much easier to see where and how much you've overexposed (or underexposed ) a shot.
Furthermore the chart has vertical lines - each line being one stop of light so it can give you an idea of how much over/under you have to play with.

It should be noted that between the over/under exposure end limits there is no set shape to a histogram that you should aim to get. The shape will be whatever it is at that time - however one trick with digital is to try and get as much of the main "bulge" of the values on the right side (without of course hitting the far right side) since this gives you the most light data to work with. It is of course not always possible, as in the case of the geese for example you might not be able to get more on the right without slowing the shutter speed- and thus risking motion blur. But whilst its not always possible its a good method to understand and be able to make use of.

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