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  • Post last modified:February 24, 2023

I bet you have dark photos in your family albums or online art collections. Usually images taken with digital cameras in an automatic mode come out too dark or too bright. All graphics editing programs can brighten images no matter whether it is a desktop application, a web app or professional boxed image software.

Check the best ways to lighten a dark snapshot you’ve made. Try one way or combine several methods describe below and let us know in comments what works best for you!

Way 1. How to Edit Dark Underexposed Photos with Brightness/Contrast

There are several ways to recover the color of dark underexposed images. To edit underexposed shots, use the easiest means – adjust brightness/contrast. All modern image editors allows you to tweak snap contrast and try to improve pic brightness.

Applying Brightness

For example, watch advanced GIMP video tutorial showing you how to edit extremely dark picture with color mask feature:

Way 2. How to Fix Picture that is Too Dark with Color Balance

Another method to fix the picture that is too dark is to experiment with a range of colors. For example, changing saturation and hues you can increase or decrease the color intensity of your image.

Adjusting Saturation
Here’s a video tutorial showing you how to deal  with dark photos and edit image color balance in Pixlr. Watch it:

Way 3. How to Make Dark Photos Brighter with Dodge & Burn Brushes

It is also possible to make a dusky pictures lighter using Dodge and Burn brushes. For example, such image editing software as Sagelight Image Editor and Gimp are equipped with these useful features.

Applying Dodge Brush
Watch video tutorial explaining how to apply dodge and burn technique in GIMP to make dark photos brighter:

Way 4. How to Lighten Dark Images with Curves or Levels

Adobe Photoshop offers Curves and Levels to adjust lightless photos. We advise you to read a step-by-step tutorial made by Ellen Brundige here to learn how to fix dark pictures.
Or watch this video tutorial showing you this powerful and secret curves and level adjustment technique in PhotoShop in action:

Way 5. How to Fix Bad Lights in Pictures with Fill Light Option

Online image editors like Picasa (now Google Photos) restores image color and fixes bad, dark lights in pictures thanks to the fill light slider. Just drag it to the right until you get the needed result. Unfortunately if the pic is so dark that shot objects can hardly be viewed the fill-light effect won’t play a trick. The picture will turn grainy with a loss of original quality.

Applying Fill Light
Here’s how to make a color emphasis in PhotoScape X similar to what Picasa did; watch the video guide below:

2 Best Free Photo Editing Apps to Illuminate Darkish Pictures Online

In the examples above, we often used Windows, Mac and Linux desktop image editing software like Adobe PhotoShop, GIMP, PhotoScape X. So what are best online image editing apps to brighten dark pics? Are there any alternatives to downloadable software? Is there a way to fix darkish pics online?

Fortunately, web applications have a full set of color tuning tools. For example, BeFunky offers exposure, saturation/hue and vibrance tweaking, fill light slider, color filter at your disposal. Pixrl can lighten dark pictures not only with color balance enhancement but using curves and levels.

Adjusting Exposure

As you can see there are many methods to add light to your dim images. They vary in complexity. In most cases you have to drag sliders until you are satisfied with the effect. However, sometimes color recovery becomes a tiresome process that includes multiple steps.

Try all methods to improve poorly lit images and choose one that suits you most of all. We also invite you to share your experience with us!

How Good Are You at Fixing Dark Photos?

Answer free quiz and learn if you can turn any dark picture into a bright one!

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Acam

    thats what I needed. Can make same for Android?

  2. Aca

    Hi! Do you know to make only background of my pic brighter? Thnx

    1. anna

      Hi Aca,

      Thanks for good question! It seems that you’re an avid reader of our blog! Check way #5: “How to Fix Bad Lights in Pictures with Fill Light Option”. As suggested there, you can use PhotoScape X to highlight background of your photo. You’ll need to apply color emphasis feature of PhotoScape X to your picture background. Please watch video tutorial in the way #5, where we showed how to utilize color emphasis option in PhotoScape X app.

      I hope it solves your problem. If you still have questions, please let me know!

      Thank you,
      Anna, Photo Software & Design Blog team

  3. Ivo

    Using “Shadow/Highlight” in Photoshop is also good way to play with dark photos. But I’m always start with Curves tool too. The article is very nice to read, exp. for newbies and glad to see that you offer alternative apps. Somehow I’m always open Photoshop even for basic edits, but youngsters like more fast online editors like Pixlr.

    1. anna

      Hi Ivo,

      Thanks for your feedback! I totally agree with you.

      Anna, Photo Software & Design Blog team

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