Is it Possible to Fix Photos with too much Exposure?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by I AM THE MAN, Jul 1, 2011.

  1. I AM THE MAN macrumors 6502

    Apr 10, 2011
    Hey everyone. I went on a trip and I took a great ton of photos. About 100 of my photos were accidentally taken with a +3 of exposure and therefore the images look very bright, etc. Is there a possible way to fix the problem? I took the photos in RAW, so if there is any possible way to fix these photos (even in Photoshop), I would really appreciate it! Thank you for your replies in advance.
  2. BASRification macrumors member

    Sep 18, 2010
    When you open the RAW files in PS, Camera Raw should open. From there, you can adjust all types of settings, including exposure. Mess around with the settings and you should be able to bring back most of the photos.
  3. I AM THE MAN thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 10, 2011
    Haha thank you! I just found that out as I went online to see this post. It works like a charm. I feel very lucky I took photos in RAW as well as JPEG, or else, my problem would never be solved. Thank you for your reply!
  4. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2008
    Just keep this in mind for the future though, it's better to underexpose than over. Even shooting RAW, you can't bring back information lost in blown out highlights.
  5. ksmith80209 macrumors 6502a

    Aug 15, 2007
    Interesting — I'd alway heard it was better to over-expose than under-expose (assuming you can't properly expose the image) because the over-exposed image actually contains more data in the RAW file with which to work.

    (the comments on the article are actually pretty good making the argument for both exposures)
  6. Erendiox macrumors 6502a


    Oct 15, 2004
    Brooklyn NY
    I can second this. There is in fact more information/detail in the highlights, so overexposing is preferable as long as you're not completely blowing out the image.
  7. srf4real macrumors 68040


    Jul 25, 2006
    paradise beach FL
    Yes I often shoot EV+1 in bright sunlit conditions, even with pure white in the frame.. The shadows are always better exposed and the highlights come right back into reign with the raw files in Photoshop.
  8. Eaton Photos macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2010
    I would like to know what Pete is smokin :eek::eek::eek:

    I over-expose/ use +EC on about 90% of what I shoot. If the image is dark/ under-exposed then there is nothing to recover shadow wise. If you've killed the shadows, then all you will do while trying to recover is introduce a lot of noise/ grain. OTOH, if you over-expose, then you can recover the highlights, while retaining shadows & mid-tones. There is a difference between over-exposing & blowing the highlights altogether. When I'm shooting Airshows, I typically use anywhere between +1 & +2 EC, to compensate for the darkness of the aircraft. I could care less about a blue sky. I would rather have a properly exposed aircraft, than a properly exposed sky, with a dark blob in the air. Same for shooting Boat Racing, I would rather have a blown sky, than a dark boat on blue water. Just my 2¢. :cool:
  9. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2008
    Maybe out of the two, overexposure is better for RAW. I'll admit that I come from more of a video background where I still say underexposure would be better. I've still heard dissenting opinions though for stills.

    For slight over/under exposure, over would probably win out. But for anything drastic, I'd still rather work with an underexposed image. Anything truly blown out carries no information that can be pulled back. Shadows are a bit more forgiving, at the expense of noise though.
  10. Nostromo macrumors 65816


    Dec 26, 2009
    Deep Space
    Depends on how much you overexpose.

    3 openings? That's beyond repair.

    You can recover some detail from blown-out portions using "highlights" in Capture One or "recovery" in Camera RAW together with the exposure slider and curves.

    But it's very limited.

    Once you measure 255 in a certain section, there's no detail left that you can recover. As long as you are in the 245 to 250 range, you might be able to do something.

    If you are shooting JPEG - forget it.
  11. Vudoo macrumors 6502a


    Sep 30, 2008
    Dallas Metroplex
    I spend a lot of time over at DPReview and the majority go with underexposed and that's what I do when I'm shooting mid-day sun.
  12. Nostromo macrumors 65816


    Dec 26, 2009
    Deep Space
    Underexposure is not a good thing to target for exposure.

    Just be careful about the highlight detail (specular highlights can burn out, like reflections in chrome, etc.).

    Google "expose to the right" to see in detail why underexposure is bad for your images.

    OP: If you can't regain detail in burned out highlights, you can try to go for "high key" lighting.
  13. gnd macrumors 6502a


    Jun 2, 2008
    At my cat's house
    To maximize dynamic range the thing to do is expose to the right (without clipping any channels and highlights) while using a UniWhiteBalance (so you're sure your histogram is not lying to you).
  14. mtbdudex macrumors 68000


    Aug 28, 2007
    SE Michigan
    thx for the post, and further discussion on under vs over exposure.

    Life is busy, and its these posts that stick in my mind as beneficial for re-enforcing photography concepts.
  15. ChristianVirtual macrumors 601


    May 10, 2010
    That's a deadly combination: DPReview and MacRumors ... I wish I had the time ... I'm there in waves.
  16. alleycat macrumors regular

    Mar 23, 2008
    +3? That's a lot of blowout. Camera RAW is good for rescuing images overexposed between 1 stop or two. 3 stops, you're going to have lots of burning and dodging in PS to do.
  17. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    Pete is smoking logic. If you blow out the highlights, the values go to max (255 for JPEG- raw depends on bit depth,) there's absolutely zero detail in a blown out section- so you can't recover the part of the image that's overexposed. You have to seriously underexpose to get to zero, so you can generally recover detail in underexposed shots. If you overexpose by 3 stops and the "correct" exposure gives you some blown highlights, then you've lost two stops worth of detail. If you underexpose by 3 stops, you can normally drag the levels up at the cost of some noise and gain some detail back. Exposing properly for your subject isn't overexposing- if the aircraft is your subject, the you expose for the aircraft and have to live with the dynamic range of your sensor to account for the surroundings- that's a far different thing than overexposing your subject.

    As far as "nothing to recover shadow-wise," that depends a lot on your sensor. I find even my old D2x has a fair bit of information. The D3x is even better- while the measurements say 2 stops of exposure latitude in each direction, I often find that I can coax 3 stops out of the shadows when I need to.

    I know people who purposefully underexpose every image so as to never lose highlight detail. To me, that's not a great idea, as you lose a lot of dynamic range, as ETTR tells you. For digital, the "white towel method" is a reasonable one if you're in the same light as your subject, as is Uni and near-Uni-WB and chimping the histogram.

    In any case though- the human eye is drawn to the brightest part of the image, so I'd generally (depending on subject) prefer to hold highlight detail over shadow detail unless the highlights are a distraction or the image is low-key or supposed to be moody. But then I've got a *lot* of shadow detail, and in general, I find that I need to throw some of it away to get good contrast to an image anyway- unless I'm printing above 13x19, I can ditch 1.5-2 stops of shadow detail and still get a pleasing image. In smaller prints, the detail is really lost on the observer anyway.

  18. acearchie macrumors 68040


    Jan 15, 2006
    I had always read that in a worse case scenario it's better to have an under exposed image rather than an over exposed image.

    I think with the option of RAW we are spoilt for choice as we can essentially turn what seem to be boring photographs into something quite special.

    Attached is an example of what I mean:

    Here are two images that I took the other day on my way back from a friends house at 5am (as you do)

    The first was exposed for what was "correct" from the metering system in the camera.


    The second photo is then the processed version to try and recover some of the details in the highlights but as you can see the area around the sun is just too bright and the detail is not there.


    The third photo shows what the photo looked like when I exposed for the sun. The image looks rubbish (IMO) and with JPEG compression it would probably be an instant delete for me.


    However, with the option of RAW I was pretty confident that I could up the exposure of the shadows and hopefully get a good image whilst retaining the detail in the suns exposure. The fourth image shows how much detail I was able to recover from what seemed to be black.

    I'm buy no means saying that underexposing is better as it seems that quite a few people have said the opposite however, I am saying that for how I use my camera I find that if I underexpose I am confident that the detail is still there. I haven't had as much success with overexposing.


    From a video point of view I found today that shooting at ISO 400 to expose correctly a scene created less noise than shooting at ISO 100 to create an under exposed scene where in the shadows I had some awful coloured noise. I had been running the camera for quite a long time before then so the sensor was probably hot.

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