How to Fix an Overexposed Photo

After a long day of shooting, you get home and upload your images to your desktop. Then you find out that most of them are overexposed.

Before you think you wasted your time, it’s worth considering what you can do with these photos.

At some point or another, you are going to need to know how to fix an overexposed photo. Read on to learn how to deal with incorrect exposure.

How to Understand the Problem of Overexposure

An overexposed photo could be down to several different reasons. Either you aren’t metering the light correctly, or your camera isn’t. We are so used to our eyes compensating light and dark areas;

When you look at a building on a bright, sunny day, the facade hides in the shade. The ground, along with the sky, is well lit. To our eyes, there isn’t much difference in the light. We can pick out the details in the shaded areas, as well as the well-lit ones.

Our camera, however, can’t do the hard work they lack a brain. To your camera, the shaded areas could be over three stops darker than the well-lit ones.

Overexposing an image can also be because we got used to looking at screens all the time. Sometimes, it is even hard to notice overexposure on your camera’s screen.

Imagine this scene: you’re trying to photograph a tall building on a sunny day with a few clouds. Either the sky is perfect and the building is too dark, or the building looks perfect and the sky becomes blown out.

Knowing why your images turn out overexposed is half.

How to Read The Histogram

Even though your camera doesn’t have a brain, it can still let you know that your photos are overexposed. The main tool for this is the histogram, and they can help you in a pinch.

A histogram is a graph that shows you the tonal range of your exposed scene. It separates into three equal parts: dark tones, mid-tones, and light tones.

The dark tones are further split into blacks and shadows. Light tones are split into highlights and whites.

Being able to read a histogram will help you know when your image becomes overexposed. By looking into which areas your colored pixels fall into, you can see what types of light are in your image.

The histogram is best when the shape of the diagram looks even. It should not be shifted or distorted towards left or right.

A majority of pixels towards the left shows dark areas in your image. The more pixels, the bigger the area. As they fall more and more to the left, the areas are darker and darker.

This works in the reverse as more and more pixels appear in the right areas. This means larger and stronger areas of white.

A contrasted image will have pixels that fall in all three areas, peaking in the mid-tones. This is, depending on the scene, a well-balanced image.

Why You Should Shoot in RAW

Shooting in RAW is the only way we recommend taking photographs at all. A RAW file may be 2-6 times bigger than a JPG, and there is a good reason for that.

RAW images have JPG embedded in them, but a RAW image holds more information about the scene than a JPG does. This is due to the fact that RAW is not a compressed format, but a lossless one.

This allows you more control when it comes to editing your images. It works especially well for bringing detail back into the overexposed areas.