I have a question about using Aperture on OS X.

I have taken a RAW picture (made with a K-5) of an arcade machine. While most of its surrounding is fairly well exposed, the lit areas are overexposed (i.e. the monitor and the top where its name is displayed in bright lights).

I have trouble fixing the image so that the overexposed area is better visible.

When I reduce the exposure of the entire image in Aperture down to -2, I can see that there's still enough detail in the RAW img to make this look good.

However, Aperture does not offer a brush for the Exposure setting. Having searched the 'net, I found lots of suggestions to use "Levels" or "Curves" instead for brushing these areas. But when I try these options, I find that I do not get the same good result as I get when reducing the overall exposure.

Here's how it looks with default exposure:

default exposure

And how the lit areas should look (with Exposure set to -2):

optimal exposure

But when I try the Curves brush, the best I can achieve (by using the Extended Range and moving the white point to the right) like this, which isn't satisfying:

Curves adjustment

Can someone suggest how I solve this? Other than using a image editing program to cut and paste parts of the corrected (Exposure -2) image into the "normal" image?

If Aperture is just not capable of it, could Lightroom do this?

BTW, if you like to try for yourself (and help me immensely with it), here's the original RAW file in PEF format: Arcade.PEF, 24 MB. Note - downloading may add an incorrect .tiff extension - remove it so that it's named "Arcade.PEF" before you open it.

  • This is the kind of software question that is unambiguously on-topic.
    – mattdm
    Apr 21, 2013 at 12:06
  • I generally call it a success when I selectively apply the Highlights & Shadows tool.
    – Ryccardo
    Apr 21, 2013 at 12:30

4 Answers 4


I tried to see if I could find a way to get Aperture to desired the required result on the image you supplied, but I could not. I though that it should be possible by a curve adjustment, but lovering the curve also made the color in the photo much less vibrant. Maybe this could be countered with other adjustments, but then it is definately not a simple way.

Lightroom does allow you to brush on exposure adjustments. The way that brushing works in Lightroom is somewhat different from Aperture. But you can brush on exposure adjustment (but you cannot brush on curves adjustments for example)

  • Thanks for trying and confirming my findings with Aperture. And also thanks for clarifying that it should be working better with Lightroom. May 16, 2013 at 21:13
  • I dislike this answer because there are in fact several simple ways to get this effect, see the other answers. It's fine to note that Lightroom can do this also but it is misleading to claim that Aperture cannot. May 18, 2013 at 7:56

I'm not sure why you awarded that answer. It's absolutely fixable easily with aperture. I've spent less than 5 minutes on this and already got decent result.

This is your exposure -2EV:

enter image description here

This is what I got to (different from above but it's even better imo):

enter image description here

All I did was brush in levels set to:

enter image description here

Followed by setting recovery to 0.14 (because some area was blown out).

Aperture can do most of what you need, you just have to learn how to use it.

  • I've awarded it because I had asked this almost a month ago and the awarded one was the first that came close to answering my question after 3 weeks. I did not expect to get any better answers by then any more. It's a bit surprising that now several better solutions come up, 4 weeks later :) May 19, 2013 at 2:59
  • Is there a technical reason it makes you do this with Levels rather than Exposure? May 13, 2021 at 17:33

There are two approaches that work for this image:

  1. Go to Highlights/Shadows. Enter "150" as the highlights value (or drag it there by dragging over the number, not using the slider handle), probably also increase Mid Contrast to about 20. Brush in that adjustment on just the sign. This looks much like the negative exposure adjustment.

    enter image description here

    Highlights/Shadows fix

  2. Open Levels (not curves), and select "Luminance". Drag the bottom slider from the middle all the way to the far right. Brush that adjustment in over the sign. Personally, I think this adjustment looks a little nicer than the first adjustment although the transitions are harsher. For most real-world editing Levels is much easier to use than Curves and produces better looking results.

    enter image description here

    Levels fix

Also you may want to add a second Shadows adjustment filling in shadows to about 50 or so, with mid-contrast of 12... brush that away from the sign with a strength of 1 or it could impact the results.


Rather than looking for an "exposure" brush, you should be looking at the burn (darken) and dodge (lighten) brushes. What you want for this image is the burn brush, which darkens a particular area under the brush.

You'll want to consider whether to turn on the "Detect Edges" option, which will constrain the effect whenever it finds an obvious edge/boundary between two areas of brightness or contrast.

Start with a copy of the image version in Aperture, so you can play without worrying. Also start with the brush on a relatively low strength. Brush over the bright area until you've reduced the glare.

You could also experiment with the Highlight slider, reducing the brightness of the highlight areas.

Good luck!

  • Sorry, but your answer is a very generic one that doesn't apply to my problem. I've tried the "darken" brush first but it didn't do anything closely to what I get with exposure set to -2. It's rather useless in this case. You may verify that yourself - I've made the original file available (though, when downloaded, it gets a .tiff extension though it's really .pef!) May 14, 2013 at 10:13

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