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Tutorial: How to Fix an Overexposed Photo | 31 Days of Photo Tips, Day 26

The challenge with fixing blown out images is that you cannot recover the hot spots. All those blown-out, pure-white pixels are irretrievable. But there are ways to help repair the images using a combination of the exposure and recovery sliders in ACR and the paint brush, clone brush, patching and content aware fill in Photoshop.


Here’s how I did it:

Hope it helps you recover some great moments that you’d otherwise lose, and if I haven’t convinced you to shoot in RAW yet, come back tomorrow to learn how to fix an underexposed image!


  1. Tried to watch the video but it say, “This video is private.”

  2. It is such fun following your 31 days of phototips. I am glad I think I can give you a tip back. If you are in a new layer and use the clone tool you don’t have to go back to the original layer. If you look on the top of the screen where the clone brush icon is, there is a button that says “sample”. You have it on current layer. If you change this to all layers you don’t have to go back to the original layer to chose your sample.

    • Tee hee – I actually do know this tip. But for the purpose of beginners – I want them to recognize where the source is and make sure they only paint on a new layer in case they need to dispose of it. When I teach advanced photoshop – I tell them “just make and stay on a new layer and sample from all layers.” I think, when the concept of layers is new – it’s easier to understand if you think of layers as independent, stacked items.

      But for the more advanced readers who have a great grasp on layers already – this is a wonderful, time-saving tip! Thanks!

  3. Hi Darcy,

    I wanted to see what you would recommend as far as training on how to use photoshop CS5? I am very new to it and would like to learn more about how to use the program.


    • Hi Kaylee –

      You’ll find you tube is a fun, free way to get started with the very beginning. My friend Kent Weakley has a new ebook coming out soon that I believe is 31 Days to Photoshop, or something like that.

      Likewise, Scott Kelby has on online subscription tutorial site that I’ve heard good things about. Lesa Snyder (“photoshop lesa”) just released a book about Photoshop – her live video on CreativeLIVE is very well done! It’s 27 hours of teaching. I recommend it!


  4. RAW is the BOMB for getting spectacular quality on photos – go Darcy!

  5. amazed at the before and after. I am very new to post-processing (in Lr). I just did a family shoot at the Morton Arboretum from 10a-noon with blazing sunlight. The harsh shadows and spotty sunlight through the trees was not ideal =T

  6. You are freaking RAD.

  7. Can this work in PSE 8 as well?

  8. Mama Monkey says:

    I wish PSE 8 had the patch tool!!!!!

  9. Lindsey Martin says:

    You know why this is an amazing article? Because my Hubster and I took our two lil Beasties to the beach this summer…paid for our pictures to be taken out on the white sand…and the shots were/are over exposed. I’m an Adobe freak (pr/marketing field) but I can also work some Photoshop/Lightroom magic. I will be using this article to clean up those shots which were all-in-all amazing…just blown out some. Thank you!

  10. Great tutorial!!! Do you always shoot in RAW?

  11. Misti LEGER says:

    Thank you for selflessly spending your timw to help you fellow (wo)men. Lol. Tks

  12. If you are shooting in Jpeg is there still a way to fix it? Or change it to raw after the fact?

    • A jpg is already a condensed file. It’s much harder to repair it. You cannot make a RAW out of a jpg, no. Once you convert the image to jpg all the information contained in a RAW is gone.

  13. Darcy… stumbled across your tutorials!!! They are fantastic!! What recommendations do you have for overexposure on blonde hair and on face? When I try to do the color match on the face it gives me colors like dark purple… my baby is Caucasian not purple!!!