Flower Photo Editing Tips- How To Reduce Blown Out Highlights For Your Flower Photography


How To Reduce Blown Out Highlights For Your Flower Photography

If you have ever photographed a flower and lost detail on the flower because of the brightness then you have experienced a blown out highlight. This can happen with white, yellow or light pink flowers. It can happen with any light colour actually. This is why it’s ideal to shoot flowers in the shade. The loss of detail is minimised due to the shadows. In other words the light reflecting back from the bright areas has been reduced.

You may notice that detail is lost in partial sunny conditions. This is due to a couple of reasons. The first is your ISO. Make sure that you set a low ISO when you shoot in the sun or partial sun. Another reason is that you may simply have a bright coloured flower that looks bright in all sorts of lighting conditions. If you have tried everything with the camera and nothing has worked then fear not. I have some help to offer.

I use Lightroom 4 for most of my editing, so I hope you don’t mind if I use it instead of Photoshop to demonstrate my point.

First of all, I took a very quick snap to show you the problem. Then I will show you how to fix it.

Here is a very quick snap of the flower.


Photo and editing by Amy Renfrey. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 1/100, F8, ISO 160, 70mm.

You can easily see that the background is quite dark and blurry. We can see the lovely yellow Daisy in the pot singing with joy.  One half of the flower (the right hand side of the petals) are in focus and not blown out. The left hand side of the petals?  We can see that the sunlight has saturated them to the point where we lose detail.

Here comes Lightroom 4 to the rescue.

Open up Lightroom. Click “file”, “import photos and video”. To the left panel you will see the options of where you want to bring your photo from.  Once you have chosen your photo, click on it and down the bottom of the screen, select “import”.

This photo will then open up in a new screen.  Up the top of this screen will have a few modules you can chose to open. Click on “Develop”.


Once we click “Develop” you will see a change to the panel on the right. These modules are where the editing takes place.



Now, we are in business! We’re ready to start editing and bringing back that detail to the flower.


We can reduce the highlights two ways. Firstly, click on “Basic”. It’s the top right hand option.



Once you see the “Basic” panel open, you will see a series of sliders and sub-panels in front of you.


See the slider called “Highlights”? Pull that down to the left. You are effectively pulling out the highlights from the overall photo:



Something has happened here. Can you see what it is? We can now see detail on the whole flower. The problem is that the overall photo is too dark. What we really want to do is reduce the highlights on the flowers surface, not make the changes to the overall photo. So now, take that slider back to zero. To find where zero is, all you have to do is double click on the word “highlights” and it will take itself back to zero again.

Instead, click on the small tool that looks like a brush. It sits above the “Basic” panel, and looks like a small paint brush turned on its side.



Once you have double clicked on it, another panel will open and drop down. Now, wherever you place your mouse on the image will turn into a circle. This means you are changing the function of the mouse into a little brush. You can make that bigger or smaller by moving your mouse button wheel, or pulling down the “Size” slider. I won’t get into the details of this right now (I will write another article about this I promise).

Place the adjustment brush over the area of the flower you want to edit. This means pretend as if you are “colouring in” the part of the flower you want to edit. In this case it is the surface of the flower. I will just select those petals that I’d like to see more detail in.


When you run over the areas you want to edit, keep in mind that whatever the adjustment brush is set to, that is what will happen to your image. Position your mouse and then “colour in” the area of the flower you want to edit. You may not see anything happen. That’s because the “highlights” slider is set to zero. Pull the “highlights” slider to the left and then edit the area of the flower. The further you pull it to the left, the further and deeper your change will be. In other words, the less highlights will be on that region you are “colouring in”.

Wherever you place the mouse and click, you will see that Lightroom places a little “pin” there. When you go click on that pin (after the edits) you’ll see the region becomes highlighted. This is not a permanent change; it’s just showing you what you have done. Click it again and you’ll see the photo without it there.



After our edits, here is what the flower looks like:



Want to compare?




Now you can see much more detail on the flower. It’s not suffering from blown out highlights and we have managed to keep the integrity of the entire image intact.

If you want to use the adjustment brush for more than just reducing highlights, you can. You can also use it to increase the sharpness in an area, increase or decrease exposure and even change the colour and saturation of your subject or area of editing.

I hope you enjoyed that tutorial. For more information about how edit and improve your photography just go to

Amy :)


About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

Comments (17)

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  1. pete says:

    I enjoyed that tutorial.

  2. Sam says:

    I really like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and coverage!

  3. Geraldine says:

    Excellent help Amy, thanks.

  4. barry says:

    I am impressed by the quality of information with this website. There are a lot of good tools and advice on taking better photos. Thanks Amy.

  5. Brian says:

    Really good post, highly enlightening and skillfully written.

  6. Ali says:

    The photo is so much better. I am trying these changes with my own program today. Thank you, Alicia

  7. Wasi says:

    Thanks, you cleared this up for me nicely.

  8. Davi says:

    Very good.Thanks

  9. Maria says:

    Can anyone take flower photography? How do you do it with a flash?

  10. Luci says:

    Love this website! Thanks!

  11. Alan says:

    Love this technique, thanks for sharing.

  12. Markus says:

    Fantastic info from you, thanks again Amy. you’re simply a great teacher.
    I can not wait to learn much more from you. This is really a tremendous website.

  13. David says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing this.

  14. Nellie Frootata says:

    Amy how do I stop the flower from being underexposed? My efforts in Photoshop have proved to be non effective.

  15. Hello, I wish for to subscribe for this weblog to take most up-to-date
    updates, so where can i do it please help.

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