How to Fix Blown-Out Whites in Photoshop

Written by brian richards
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In photography, an overexposed area of a photograph is referred to as being "blown out." This means that the area of the photo was too bright for the exposure settings of the camera. As a result, the area becomes a flat, uniform white with no colour or texture. Typically, blown-out whites appear in the bright areas of a photograph, such as on the areas of a person's skin that reflect sunlight. Minor overexposure can be fixed in Adobe Photoshop with just a few tools, but very blown-out areas may require that you paint over the affected area.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Open the photograph you wish to fix in Photoshop by clicking on the File menu and choosing "Open." Find the image file in the explorer window, click on it and press "Open."

  2. 2

    Duplicate the background layer by clicking on it in the Layers pane and dragging it to the "Create a new layer" button.

  3. 3

    Click on the "Blending Mode" drop-down menu and choose the "Multiply" option. This will uniformly darken the highlights of your image, fixing any blown-out areas.

  4. 4

    Select the Eyedropper tool, and click on an area of the photograph adjacent to the blown-out area. This will pick out the colour for you to use to paint over the overexposure.

  5. 5

    Create a new layer by clicking on the "Create a new layer" button. Select the "Color" blending mode from the drop-down menu.

  6. 6

    Select the Paintbrush tool and click and drag your cursor over the blown-out whites. Because the blending mode of this layer is set to "Color," Photoshop will retain the texture, highlights and shadows of the overexposed area but will replace the blown-out whites with a more natural, blended colour.

  7. 7

    Click the Sponge tool and drag your cursor over the overexposed areas to desaturate (remove the colour from) it slightly. This will blend the colour you added into the photograph for a more natural look.

Tips and warnings

  • Large areas of overexposure are very difficult to correct realistically. Small areas of blown-out whites can occur no matter how precise you set your exposure controls and are straightforward to fix, but an overall overexposed photo likely will not be able to be recovered.

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