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How To Quickly Correct a Washed Out (Overexposed) Photo in Photoshop

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Corrected Overexposure

An overexposed image that has been corrected.

Layer blend modes are a powerful feature of image editing software. Here's a quick and easy way to fix a washed out picture using blend modes in any version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. In fact, this technique will work in any other software that offers a soft light layer blend mode.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 2 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Open the photo.
  2. Try the Auto Levels command first.
  3. If you like the results, you're done! If it's an improvement but the photo could still use a boost, move on to the next step. If it made it worse, use the undo command and move on to the next step.
  4. If the layer palette is not visible, display it by going to Window > Show Layers.
  5. Drag the background to the new layer button on the layer palette to duplicate it.
  6. Change the blend mode for the duplicate layer to Soft Light.
  7. If the results are too dark, lower the opacity of the layer.
  8. If the photo is still too light, drag the copy to the new layer button to duplicate it again. Adjust opacity as needed.

Tips:

  1. If portions of the image become too dark, add a layer mask to the soft light layer and use the paint tools to hide or reveal the layer as needed. (see related information below for layer masks)

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