Foto, Fotoguider
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how to save an overexposed shot – a photo of Norrbro/Riksbron, Stockholm

I have some issues with too strong sun. I admit it. Not everyone love backlight, or light at all. I prefer the soft morning or afternoon light and despise the middle of the day light. For photographic reasons of course.

During the weekend my cousin was here visiting with his family and we took a walk from Gamla Stan to Sveavägen. To get there you  have to pass over a bridge and we walked along Vasabron. On Vasabron I shot this horrible shot of Norrbro, the bridge from the castle to the city centre.


iso 100, f2.0, 1/1250 sek

I´m not sure what I did, but I definitively didn´t get the settings right this time. The house walls are white, the water as well and the people is bathing in white white white. I didn´t think I was ever going to be able to do anything about this shot really. It just felt too white.

how to save an overexposed image

I was about to throw it away when I decided to edit it and hopefully show how to save an overexposed image. Maybe also to make the point that the image isn´t really ready straight out of the camera, editing is a necessity in most cases and part of your style as a photographer.

step by step

This is what I did in some short steps. I use Lightroom and have the Swedish version, but this will work as well in many basic editing programs.

  • Adjust and clone

The first step for me is always adjusting the image, straighten it or crop it. I rarely crop but always straighten. I very rarely clone but tried it out on this image (the white area in the water) but decided to leave it, since I like imperfections, they make it more fun.

  • Adjust exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, white and blacks.

My settings, exposure to -1.33, contrast +29, highlights -100, shadows +34, whites -64, blacks +26, clarity +6

You can play around whit these settings but be careful with clarity and saturation. I normally go minus on saturation if I do anything at all. It might look great on your screen when you add a bit saturation but on others you most likely are orange. The screen is almost always set wrong and when adding clarity for example the colours also change.

  • Use the gradient filter.

In lightroom there is two gradient filters. I used the round one to remove shadows on the bridge. I could have used it to make the water darker on the left side, or lighter on the right and so fort. The gradient filter is a nifty tool that makes you feel like an expert. In lightroom you have it in the develop section, on the right side below the histogram. Just mark it and play around with the setting. Make sure that you have the ”invert mask” crossed. This tool works well to remove shadows from faces when editing portraits.

  • Balance the colors

I always check the colours in the picture and most definitively check the the blue and the green. I am not fond of saturated blue or green colors so I always tone them down and make them darker or more faded. When the photo is overexposed it is suitable that you make the blue and yellow a bit darker to save more of the sky and to save overexposed grass make the yellow and the green darker.

  • Add a preset

Have you ever heard of a preset? In Photoshop they are called actions and in lightroom presets. The best tool ever. There is downloadable pre edits you can buy or in some cases get for free. I added a fade ”filter” to get the image a bit more smooth. Some don´t like them but at the moment I love them.

and the result?

yeah, what do you think? Even if this is far from one of my favorite shots and compositions, I still love how much you can do with some knowledge and patience.


The photos is taken from Vasabron, overlooking Riksbron and behind it Norrbro



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