How to Fix an Overexposed Photo

When you take a photograph, the camera does all the work for you. But what if your pictures come out too dark or too bright? If that happens, there are ways to fix them.

Overexposed photos are common because most cameras have automatic exposure systems that adjust for brightness and contrast automatically. If you’re shooting in bright sunlight or indoors with bright lights, your camera will compensate by increasing the exposure time, which makes the image brighter. This can be fine if you’re trying to capture a moving object or want to show detail in a dark area of an image, but it can also lead to overexposure if it’s not what you’re going for.

There are many reasons why an image might be overexposed. Maybe the light source was too close to your subject so it exposed them too much; maybe your lens wasn’t able to take in enough light; maybe your camera was set up incorrectly and didn’t capture enough information from the scene; or maybe you were shooting at night without a flash and needed more light than what was available.

Adjust your camera settings

The first thing to do is try adjusting your camera settings. On most cameras, there will be an exposure compensation button that can make the image brighter or darker. If not, then you’ll have to go into your camera’s menu system and change things like shutter speed and ISO manually (however this varies by manufacturer).

Quick Fix Method: Adjusting Exposure

The easiest way to fix a photo is by adjusting its exposure level in your photo editor. This can be done right on your phone or tablet with apps like Snapseed or VSCO Cam, or in desktop programs like Photoshop or Lightroom.

This option is best if you’re looking for more control over what gets adjusted and how much it does so.

Keep shooting until you get it right

Overexposure doesn’t always mean that your photo will come out looking black. In fact, in most cases, you can still salvage it. Sometimes it’s not until you have taken many shots that you realize the problem has occurred. Keep shooting until you get it right.

Take more photos

The most obvious way is to take another photo in the same location. You might want to wait for the sun to move a little in order to get better lighting, or even just wait until later in the day when the sun is less intense.

Reduce the amount of light coming into your camera

To fix overexposed images, you’ll need to reduce the amount of light coming into your camera. You can do this using one of the following methods:

Increase your shutter speed (the length of time your camera shutter stays open). This will let in less light while you’re taking a photo, which will result in a darker exposure. For example, if you normally shoot at 1/250th of a second but want to take a photo indoors at night with artificial lighting, try increasing your shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second or even 1/2000th of a second

Use neutral density filters on your lens, which block out light without affecting color quality (ND filters are available in different strengths).

Other tips

Use the Shadows slider in Lightroom or Camera Raw. This will help get rid of highlight clipping while preserving detail in the shadows.

Use Luminosity Masks in Photoshop to selectively darken the highlights and midtones, leaving the shadows alone.

Use an adjustment brush with a graduated filter on the overexposed area of the image. This will allow you to increase exposure only in areas that need it most (usually skies).