How to fix blown-out highlights in your wildflower photos (using Photoshop)

Photo by Steve Berardi

Photo by Steve Berardi

In our free eBook on wildflower photography, we explained how important it is to get a perfect exposure when photographing wildflowers. Otherwise, you’ll get blown-out highlights.

Well, sometimes there just isn’t a perfect exposure, and no matter what shutter speed you choose, you’ll either get a wildflower that is way too underexposed, or you’ll get tiny overexposed “patches” on your wildflower.

Fortunately, if these “patches” are small enough, there’s an easy way to fix them in Photoshop. Here’s how:

Photo by Steve Berardi

Photo by Steve Berardi

In the photo above, the blown-out highlights are circled in blue (this may be hard to see in this small sized photo). The highlights are blown-out because of too much saturation, so we want to desaturate these areas a little bit. We’ll do this using the “sponge” tool:

1) From the toolbox window, select the “sponge” tool. Depending on which version of Photoshop you have, this may be under the same tab as the Burn/Dodge tools (see screenshot below):


2) Use these values for the tool settings:

  • Mode: Desaturate
  • Flow: 35%
  • Brush Diameter: 130
  • Brush Hardness: 16%

3) Finally, simply draw the sponge over the problem areas (hold down the mouse button, and release when finished).

If this desaturates the flower too much, then go back and try a lower “flow” value.

Here’s the final image used in this example:

Photo by Steve Berardi

Photo by Steve Berardi

Remember, this method only works well when you have small “patches” of blown-out highlights, and if they’re not blown-out too much. You still need to get as perfect an exposure as possible.

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steveb2About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains or the Mojave Desert, both located in the beautiful state of California.


  1. Rex Winterton says:

    Thanks Steve for the upliftng photos and comments. Always have enjoyed your input.

  2. Excellent tip

  3. As a non expert in PS, why would I use this rather than ‘burn’ the over-hot areas, Steve?



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