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The Big Fixx: digital-camera image problems > Compensating for “Too Much Flash”

Compensating for “Too Much Flash”

Don’t ya hate it when you open a photo and realize that either (a) the flash fired when it shouldn’t have; (b) you were too close to the subject to use the flash and they’re totally “blown out”; or (c) you’re simply not qualified to use a flash at all, and your flash unit should be forcibly taken from you, even if that means ripping it from the camera body? Here’s a quick fix to get your photo back from the “flash graveyard” while keeping your reputation, and camera parts, intact.

Step One.
Open the photo that is suffering from “flashaphobia.” In the example shown here, the flash, mounted on the camera body, washed out the entire subject (although the background behind him looks okay).


Step Two.
Make a copy of the photo layer by dragging it to the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. Then, change the layer Blend Mode of this duplicate layer from Normal to Multiply (as shown here). This Blend Mode has a “multiplier” effect, and brings back a lot of the original foreground detail the flash “blew out.” However, darkening the entire photo made the background (which was properly exposed) a bit too dark.

Step Three.
Hold the Option key (PC: Alt key) and click the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette (as shown here). This adds a black Layer Mask, which completely hides the Multiply Blend Mode layer from view (you’ve masked that layer away, so to speak).

Step Four.
Press the letter “d” to switch your Foreground color to white, choose a soft-edged brush, and start painting over the foreground area in the photo (the subject, the desk, the papers he’s resting on, etc.), As you paint, you’ll be revealing the darker “Multiply” layer and removing the effect of the flash being too close.

Step Five.
Continue painting over the foreground area, but avoid the background, because the flash wasn’t too harsh there. When you’re done, the amount of flash is now properly balanced.


If you make a mistake and accidentally darken the background, you can switch your Foreground color to black, paint over those areas, and they’ll return to how they originally looked. That’s the beauty of using a Layer Mask.

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