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I have been trying to remove these annoying white stripes, but it seems each time I do, the picture gets worse. I tried some free online apps, but it doesn't seem to work. Sadly, I do not have the raw file.

image

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  • Are you referring to the sunlight shining through the window? Do you have access to a raw file of the image? – xiota Apr 30 '20 at 5:09
  • No, sadly I do not and yes, that's what I meant. Sorry, they kinda looked like stripes to me. If there's anyone who could help me getting them removed I'd be entirely grateful. Thanks – Kaylani Li Apr 30 '20 at 6:53
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I agree with Tetsujin. The highlights in the image you posted are blown out to pure white. Since you do not have the raw file, there is no information to recover.

It is possible to use collage and cloning techniques to fill in the missing detail, but it would be time consuming and likely not worthwhile, especially if you can retake the image.

You can avoid this problem in the future:

  • Reduce contrast with sheer curtains, reflectors, artificial lighting, etc.
  • Save raw+jpg, so you can recover highlights/shadows from the raw.
  • Use dynamic range expansion options in camera.
  • Reduce exposure so that highlights aren't blown. It's easier to recover shadows than highlights.
  • Bracket shots.
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    "It's easier to recover shadows than highlights" …especially if you're shooting RAW. Trying to recover underexposed shadows from JPEG often just gives you a blocky mess, because JPEG has a limited dynamic range and also compresses shadows pretty hard. With RAW, you can push up shadows by a couple of stops without suffering anything worse than some extra noise. (Of course, even RAW has limits, and I suspect the OP's scene may exceed the dynamic range of their camera. In which case their options are to either change the lighting to reduce the contrast or accept the blown highlights.) – Ilmari Karonen Apr 30 '20 at 15:14
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If you don't have the raw file, this is not going to be possible.
From comments - it's not so much that having the RAW would guarantee rescue, rather that having only a tiny jpg gives you zero chance.
BTW, this image is littered round the interweb, no clear source.

The stripes are pretty much data-less, all within a point or two of being literally pure white. No matter how much you reduce the exposure in those areas, there's no data to recover.

I've hit this section hard to show you what happens when you try…

enter image description here

That's all the data that exists in those sections. Nowhere near enough to work with.

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    Note that you do have enough information : just not at the correct location. There's probably enough well-exposed skin, hair and textile to be able to clone it to the blown-out areas. – Eric Duminil Apr 30 '20 at 21:55
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    There's a prize for the first one to do it ;) – Tetsujin May 1 '20 at 7:01
  • Here's a proof-of-concept. – Eric Duminil May 1 '20 at 10:35
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Clone stamp tool

With enough patience and Photoshop skills, it should be possible to "recover" blown highlights by simply cloning a similar texture from another part of the picture, which is correctly exposed. I'm a mediocre Photoshopper, and here's what I achieved in 5 minutes with the Clone Stamp Tool. Please don't laugh too hard at the bra or hair:

enter image description here

Compared to the original:

enter image description here

Using a layer with Darken blend mode and Opacity set at 90% helped a bit.

Someone who doesn't suck at Photoshop should be able to get decent results.

Compress the tonal range

The best method would be to compress the tonal range directly while shooting, either by diffusing the incoming light or by using strobes.

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    Valiant effort. Worth a runner-up prize at least;) but really does reinforce how tough a proposition this is with so little input data. – Tetsujin May 1 '20 at 13:26
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    I’m impressed by how well the hair came out in this rough pass – Tim May 1 '20 at 23:58
  • @EricDuminil You neglected the lower part of the image. – xiota May 3 '20 at 17:41
  • @xiota: You're right. It might be harder to recover than the middle part but it should still be doable. The bra is white-ish, so it doesn't bother me too much if the lower part is completely white. My image was just meant as a proof-of-concept. – Eric Duminil May 3 '20 at 18:04
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As others have said, the areas in question have lost most of their data, so there is no way to recovery what has been lost.

The only way to repair the image at this stage is to recreate the data either from the start (i.e. take the photo again), or approximate what should be their using the surrounding data as a reference. The former is not possible in this case, the latter requires a lot of patience and is effectively akin to digital painting.

For small areas photo editing softwares will have various forms of spot removal, and airbrushing tools to try to patch things up, but for larger areas the data has to be created from scratch.


Out of pure bordem with the current lockdown situation, I've spend a little while (20-30 minutes) having a go at trying to recreate some of the lost data using a mixture of Photoshops healing brush, and some copying of data from other sections of the photo.

For areas like skin this is relatively easy, especially on a low-res image. For hair it is incredibly difficult and time consuming so I gave up after a little while as is obvious.

Airbrushing attempt

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  • You'd also need to fabricate detail in the lower part of the image. – xiota May 3 '20 at 17:39

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