How to Rescue an Overexposed Photo with Radiant Photo

Getting perfect exposure can be tough, especially if you’re shooting with a smaller sensor camera. In this case, this photo was captured in an area with both rich shadows and bright highlights. In this case, you’ll learn how to recover overexposed areas.

Straight out of the camera (or, in this case, phone), the image looks like this.

Original overexposed photo

While parts of the photo are properly exposed, large parts are blown out. Especially the foreground rocks and the waterfall. The overexposed areas are clear to target in this case.

Let’s fix this with a few key changes. This will allow us to learn a few overlooked tools in Radiant Photo.

Get Started in Radiant Photo

Opening the image, Radiant Photo applies a Smart Preset based on the scene. In this case, the adjustments worked well but need a bit of tweaking.

Initial exposure recovery in Radiant Photo
  • Increase the Strength slider in Smart Editing to apply a more aggressive exposure balance.
  • Refine the Color slider in Smart Editing to smooth out how aggressive the color changes are.
  • Disable the Exposure correction to prevent any more shifts of the highlights.

Go for a Balanced Exposure

Let’s make four more adjustments to help with the bright areas.

Improving contrast with Radiant Photo
  • Super Contrast improves the dynamic range of the photo
  • Light Diffusion softens the harsh shadows and overbright areas.
Improving definition with Radiant Photo
  • Depth with maximum Definition improves the richness of shadows.
  • Recovering the White Point shifts the top area of brightness.

Check the Scene for Overexposed Areas

With the Histogram visible, you can see the exposure of the scene. You can click the two triangles (or press J) to see the clipping indicators. Red indicates areas that are too bright, and Black indicates areas that are clipped black.

Clipping indicators in Radiant Photo

While looking at the clipping, it’s the Whites are what’s most concerning, as a little clipped black is often fine.

Go Traditional with Exposure Controls

In the Finishing Tools, you’ll find a set of traditional development tools. We can use these at the end of the pipeline to refine the photo.

Additioanl Exposure recovery with Radiant Photo

Here some additional manipulation really brings back the right balance of shadows and highlights.

Mask It for Exposure Control

The Adjustable Gradient is often overlooked. Here the linear gradient was added.

Advanced Masking with Radiant Photo
  • The center point was moved a little lower in the frame
  • The size and feather were adjusted to create three zones. Red is the top. Clear is the middle. And Blue is the bottom.

Now with an additional pass of tonal adjustments, it’s easy to refine the shadows and highlights further.

Advanced Masking with Radiant Photo for Top and Bottom

For the waterfall, small adjustments help bring out the contrast in the water.

For the bottom, the contrast was reduced to improve the shadows and water reflections; then, some color and tone adjustments balanced the rocks to reduce their visual dominance. This helps the waterfall stand out more.

Telling the Story

When you face a photo like this, the key is to have a goal. Overall the waterfall is the focus of the image. However, I wanted the water to have really well-defined areas and to get a rich balance of shadows in the scene.

The before and after image in Radiant Photo

The multiple exposure and toning controls in Radiant Photo are there so you can really refine an image and take control over the light in your scene.

Be sure to give Radiant Photo a try here.