Fixing Overexposure: Paint.NET Tutorial

Use Paint.NET to Correct a Light Photo Due to Overexposure

Overexposure is a common problem with digital photos and this photo image editing tutorial will show some techniques for reducing the problem using Paint.NET.

Overexposed images appear overly bright as a result of the shutter being open longer than necessary resulting in the sensor being exposed to too much light. You should note that very overexposed images may have areas that can not be improved no matter how much time you spend trying to correct the problems so it is always best to try and get good results straight from your camera.

Open an Image

If you want to follow the steps of this tutorial, you will need an overexposed image. I'm using an image that has been deliberately overexposed by two stops so that the adjustments will be more obvious. I've also chosen to use a reasonably high contrast image as this also makes things more difficult.

When you've chosen the image you want to work on, go to File > Open and navigate to the image and click the Open button.

Try Auto-Level

Before trying anything else, it always makes sense to try the Auto-Level feature to see what kind of effect that produces. This can be variable, particularly when a photo has more than a slight exposure problem, but if nothing else, it can at least give you a base line to try and improve on.

To apply this, go to Adjustments > Auto-Level and the image will be automatically adjusted within a few seconds. In my case the result is a bit too harsh, with the contrast greater than I'd like and more blue than ideal appearing in the highlights of the camera, so I went to Edit > Undo.

Curves - Luminosity

Go to Adjustments > Curves and when the dialog opens, ensure that the drop down menu is set to Luminosity. When first opened, the display should show a straight diagonal line – if it doesn't, click the Reset button.

The line represents the tonal values of all of the pixels that make up the image, with the light pixels represented at the top right, the dark pixels at bottom left and all the other tonal values in-between. By dragging the curve downwards, all the pixels in that tonal range will become darker, while dragging the curve up makes them lighter.

If you click on the thumbnail you will see that I dragged the curve down to varying degrees at different points. When you're happy with your adjustments, click OK.

Curves – RGB

The last step made quite an improvement to the image, but if you click on the thumbnail, you can see that the image has a slight red color cast. To remove a color cast in Paint.NET, we need to use the RGB mode in Curves.

Go to Adjustments > Curves and set the drop down menu to RGB. Now I can uncheck the Green and Blue boxes and my adjustments will only apply to the red channel. Click on the thumbnail and you'll see that I applied a gentle downwards curve to the red channel and then, using the checkboxes to select just the green and blue channels in turn, applied a gentle upwards curve to those two channels. This greatly neutralized the red tint. You may be interested to read my Paint.NET color cast tutorial for more information.


I'm fairly happy with the result. It is a bit of a compromise as the background was so overexposed, there is very little information there. I could use Brightness / Contrast and/or Levels to make a few final tweaks to the image, as I did in my Paint.NET tutorial on correcting an underexposed image, but this would start to remove some of detail that has been recovered in the background and as there is so little there already, I don't want to do anything that will burn out more of this to pure white.

Try experimenting on some of your overexposed images using some of the tips covered in this Paint.NET photo image editing tutorial and you will quickly get a feel for what techniques will work best with specific types of images.