How to Tell if your Highlights are Blown (and how to fix them)
How to Tell if your Highlights are Blown (and how to fix them)

It is inevitable that at some point you will be shooting a scene where you have really bright spots from situations like having direct sunlight in your image, reflection of light bouncing off subjects/objects, or from shooting backlighting (there are other situations where this can occur but it these are the most common for me personally). So today I’m going to show you how to tell if your highlights are blown (and how I fix them in post processing).

The first step I recommend is that you go into your camera settings and adjust them so that you can see the blinking highlight warning on the image preview when you are shooting (you can find out how to do this by checking your camera manual as it will be different for different models). This can be helpful in multiple ways. Just by a quick glance at the back of your camera, you will be able to see what part of your image is being overexposed and where you have blown highlights. Then you can decide if you would like to adjust your settings in camera while you have the chance to take another shot that will correct the blown highlights or if the area that is being shown by the blinking highlight warnings is okay with lost detail. In certain situations (like the ones listed above) you will most likely have the highlight warnings blinking at you. But, it might be okay. For example, when you are shooting in backlighting situations, it is very likely that you will have blown highlights in the sky. This is especially true if the sun is in your image (rather then being right outside the frame of your shot).

You can identify your blown highlights in both Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and in Lightroom by turning on the highlight clipping warning at the top right corner of the histogram. This will show you the areas of your image where you have blown out your highlights. You can then use the highlight slider to bring back detail into these areas of your image by sliding it to the left. You can see some examples in the videos below using both of those softwares.

In this first video I am using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CC to show how to identify and fix your blown highlights.

In this second video I am using Adobe Lightroom CC to show how to identify and fix your blown highlights.

  • Suzanne Carey
    May 27, 2016 at 8:00 AM

    Great article from Allison! Love the read!

  • Cathy
    May 30, 2016 at 10:02 AM

    Wow! Thank you for this information. It is so simple, yet makes a big difference in the editing process!

    • June 7, 2016 at 11:44 AM

      Thanks Cathy! I am so glad that it was helpful!

  • Kathleen
    June 6, 2016 at 1:54 PM

    Stinking brilliant! Thanks for the great article!

    • June 7, 2016 at 11:44 AM

      Thanks for the comment Kathleen! I’m so happy you liked it!

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