In Photoshop® you have a plethora of tools at your fingertips to fix any problem.
Today we are going to go through a few of my favorite ways to save an overexposed image.
Locate your Adjustments panel. If it is not already on your workspace go to Windows > Adjustments (see screenshot below)
As a bonus we added a video at the end of this blog post to show you how to do each of these steps.
The top 4 icons under "Add an adjustment" are going to be your go to tools.We will discuss the first 3 in this article.
We will use the following picture from Unsplash.com by Tom Pumford to show this example on. Here is the before photo (stunning, I know!)
1. Brightness tool
This is one of the easiest ways to overall brighten an otherwise dark image. Conveniently, this can generally fix dark images. You must be careful not to blow out your highlights with this however.
2. Brightness tool + mode Screen
To take the brightness a step further you can use the brightness tool and then go to your layers palette and change the "mode" of the brightness layer to screen.
Note to "Normal" box with a dropdown arrow. That is where you will select the layer mode. Choose "Screen"
Remember to use the Opacity slider to ensure this fits your overall image. Screen will make a big impact and most likely you will need to take this down a notch or two.
Levels are a great way to adjust brightness because it breaks down your shadows, mid-tones and highlights, allowing you a little more control of the brightness.
Note the three up arrows. One is black to indicate Shadows. One is Gray to indicate Mid-tones. One is White to indicate the Whites in the image.
Sliding the gray and white arrow to the left will increase the overall brightness of the mid-tones and highlights.
Sliding just the white arrow will increase the overall brightness of the highlights.
4. Curves using white dropper
My favorite way to adjust brightness is by using the Curve adjustment + the White eye dropper (on the left side of the curves panel).
This is super simple if you can locate an area of the image that should be 100% white. Then click and it will adjust the overall brightness to match.
You can do this same thing if you want to use the black eye dropper and click something within the image that should be 100% black.
Important: This method will also adjust your white balance because you are telling Photoshop that this area should be exact white! I like it for this very reason. I carefully selected the white area of her dress (no shadow area)
5. Curves using toning curve
The screenshot below shows how to bring up the brightness in the highlights of an image using the toning curve.
Adding an anchor point in the middle of the line helps to not disrupt the shadows. Again this type of curve is used to increase the brightness in the highlights.
Note: this is my favorite of all ways because you can really define your vision. You can make a moody image but with a proper exposure.
This photo shows how to increase an overall brightness in the mid-tones & highlights.
And that is my quick tips to fixings an overexposed image in Photoshop.
Scroll down to see a video of me teaching each one of these techniques above.
But wait ...
Another easy way to fix the brightness of an image is using Photoshop Actions such as Edit + Hustle which was designed to give you the perfect exposure while enhancing your photograph.
(photo by Danielle Coppersmith)
Step by step video tutorial on how to save an overexposed image in Photoshop