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Overexposure & Underexposure

Here's an easy way to fix overexposed or underexposed photographs.

Overexposed photographs are too light.

Underexposed photographs are too dark.

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Overexposed By 2 Stops

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Underexposed by 2 Stops

Be sure to check off as you go along.

Preparation

1) Preserve your original file.

If you haven't already done so, go to Preserve Your Original File.

2) Create a Background copy layer.

If you haven't already done so, go to Create a Background Copy Layer.

Overexposed or Underexposed?

3) If your photograph is overexposed, continue below.

If your photograph is underexposed, scroll down to Fix an Underexposed Photography, or click here.

Fix an Overexposed Photography

Again, an overexposed photograph is too light everywhere.

4) Make sure the Background copy layer is active (highlighted).

If it isn't, click the Background copy layer.

5) Change the blending mode of the Background copy layer from Normal to Multiply.

Blending Mode?

At the top of the layers stack, look for the unlabeled Blending Mode box.

It's to the left of the Opacity box.

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If you're new to blending modes, go to Blending Modes.

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6) Your overexposed photograph is now darker.

Too Dark?

If your photograph is too dark now, reduce the opacity of the Background copy layer from 100% to a lower number.

Make sure the Background copy layer is active (highlighted).

The Opacity box is at the top of the layers stack, to the right of the Blending Mode box.

It probably has 100% inside.

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Not Dark Enough?

If your photograph isn't dark enough, create a duplicate of the Background copy layer.

Make sure the Background copy layer is active (highlighted).

Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer.

A Duplicate Layer window will open.

By default, Photoshop Elements will name the duplicate layer Background copy 2.

Click OK.

You can add more duplicate layers until your photograph is the correct exposure.

Scroll down to Saving the Photograph, or click here.

Fix an Underexposed Photography

Again, an underexposed photograph is too dark.

4) Make sure the Background copy layer is active (highlighted).

If it isn't, click the Background copy layer.

5) Change the blending mode Background copy layer from Normal to Screen.

Blending Mode?

At the top of the layers stack, look for the unlabeled Blending Mode box.

It's to the left of the Opacity box.

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If you're new to blending modes, go to Blending Modes.

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6) Your underexposed photograph is now lighter.

Too Light?

If your photograph is too light now, reduce the opacity of the Background copy layer from 100% to a lower value.

Make sure the Background copy layer is active (highlighted).

The Opacity box is at the top of the layers stack, to the right of the Blending Mode box.

It probably has 100% inside.

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Not Light Enough?

If your photograph isn't light enough, create a duplicate of the Background copy layer.

Make sure the Background copy layer is active (highlighted).

Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer.

A Duplicate Layer window will open.

By default, Photoshop Elements will name the duplicate layer Background copy 2.

Click OK.

You can add more duplicate layers until your photograph is the correct exposure.

Saving the Photograph

If you haven't already done so, go to Saving Files.

Advanced Techniques

To control exposure and contrast more precisely in an entire photograph, go to Levels.

To modify the exposure in part of a photography, go to Burning & Dodging.

If there are totally overexposed areas, blown out, you can't use the above technique to darken them.

For example, the area near the mirror in the above photographs is blown out.

Go to Painting Overexposed Areas.