I have come across this issue a few times and I finally decided to ask my question here to see if the community could help me.

So, I am trying to make the contrast in this photo look right. I have played around with the levels tool and ended up already with some good results, but no matter what I do, that very bright spot (indicated by the red circle), doesn't fit the photo harmonically. What would be the most recommended technique to fix this? Is there a common work around for this type of situation? Thanks you in advance for reading and please let me know if I can provide any more information.

enter image description here

  • Use a mask on the overexposed areas of your Levels adjustment layer or use the Burn Tool (set to affect highlights in the tool options) ? Check this question for similar issue- graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/16296
    – Kyle
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 21:40

3 Answers 3


I guess this is a JPG file, you do not have any RAW file.

Your camera has already done its best to make it not look right, but fit into the limited brightness range which can be shown in normal computer screens. Unfortunately the standard JPG generating process in the camera hasn't understood that not so perfect lens and image sensor spread diffuse light around high exposure areas and that makes the dark leaves look like they are in fog.

You can make a copy of the image in a new layer and apply different levels or curves to the copy so that the foggy areas are fixed. Then with layer mask you make just those areas visible in the differently adjusted layer.

Another way is to insert an adjustment layer. Here's a curves layer inserted and set to drop the brightness without changing contrast. A full black layer mask was inserted when the curve affected so that the fog was vanished and then white was painted with soft low opacity brush into the mask to the problem area:

enter image description here

Black in the layer mask keeps the effect off and white puts it on. Grey means partial effect. Painting white slowly gradually fades the effect in with no disturbing border.

Save as JPG flattens the image to single layer. Save as PSD retains the editability.

  • This kind of already improved the photo. This was sent by a client for me to insert it on a layout. I was struggling to lower those blown whites, but working on that spot with the help of the mask, did the job. I will tweak it a bit more, but it will eventually work just fine. Thank you very much for your answer.
    – daniel kip
    Commented Sep 7, 2020 at 2:06

I would use Adobe Camera RAW for this. Even though you only have a JPEG which is less than ideal, you can convert the layer to a Smart Object, and use Adobe Camera RAW as a filter. The beauty of using ACR as a filter is that it's non-destructive and you can go back and tweak it as much as you like.

Example showing tweaks made in ACR

enter image description here

Then back in Photoshop paint on the layer mask to selectively apply the filter only to the required areas.

Example showing before and after with masking.

enter image description here

  • Thank you so much. I tried this as another alternative to it and worked out pretty well too. The non destructive aspect is very helpful when it comes to further tweaking, after all, you never know. Thank you!
    – daniel kip
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 14:55

With the G'mic tone enhance tool we can adjust highlight shadow or midpoint to overcome exposure or bleeding issues to some extent. These tools come as plugin for a variety of OS or applications or are available as an online version to not exclude Photoshop users.

Below result is from using the Details > Tone Enhance tool with following settings:

  • Shadows Details 0.8 Gamma 1.3
  • Highlights Detail 0 Gamma 1 (Default)
  • Midpoints Centre 72 Detail 2 Gamma 0.6
  • Extra Shadow Boost 0.5 Smooth 0 (Default)
  • Detail Mask Smooth 0 (Default)
  • Channels HSI Values Cut Color median ticked

In addition I desaturated the cyan channel a bit for more natural colors.

enter image description here

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