How to Lighten Photos

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Bring out the details in your dark photo by editing it.
Bring out the details in your dark photo by editing it. (Image: Ting Hoo/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Photos are powerful tools for telling stories and evoking memories. But since we're not all professional photographers, often a photo will come out much less than perfect. One common mistake is incorrect lighting, which will result in a photo appearing too dark or too light. This is a relatively simple problem to fix, and can be done with almost any photo editing software. After uploading your picture to your computer, you can fix it in a few simple steps.

Using Photoshop

Upload your photos to your computer if you haven't already done so. This can be done by copying them from an SD card (if you have a digital camera) or by scanning 35mm photos into your "Pictures" folder.

Open your Adobe Photoshop application by double-clicking its desktop icon.

Click "File," followed by "Open." Browse through your photographs and double-click the one you want to edit. It will now be uploaded into Photoshop.

Click the "Image" option from the toolbar menu at the top of the Photoshop window. Select "Adjustment," followed by "Levels." A pop-up dialog box will appear.

Brighten your image by clicking and dragging the small gray arrow on the "Input Levels" line to the left. To add contrast, click and drag the small white arrow on the "Input Levels" line to the left. Your picture will now be lighter.

Using GIMP

Upload the photos to your computer if you haven't already done so. This can be done by copying them from an SD card (if you have a digital camera) or by scanning 35mm photos into your "Pictures" folder.

Open your GIMP software by double-clicking its desktop icon.

Click "File," followed by "Open." Browse through your photographs and double-click the one you want to edit. It will now be uploaded into GIMP.

Click "Tools" from the GIMP toolbar menu at the top of the window, followed by "Color Tools" and then "Brightness-Contrast." A pop-up dialog box will appear.

Move the "Brightness" slider to the right to lighten your photo. Slide the "Contrast" slider to the left or right to lose or gain contrast, respectively. Click "Save" to keep your changes. Your photo should now be lighter.

Using Paint.net

Upload your photos to your computer if you haven't already done so. This can be done by copying them from an SD card (if you have a digital camera) or by scanning 35mm photos into your "Pictures" folder.

Open your Paint.net software by double-clicking its desktop icon.

Click "File," followed by "Open." Browse through your photographs and double-click the one you want to edit. It will now be uploaded into Paint.net

Click "Effects" from the toolbar located at the top of the Paint.net window. Select "Photo," followed by "Glow." This will open a pop-up dialog box.

Move the "Radius" slider all the way to the left to avoid causing blurriness while editing. Move the "Brightness" slider to the right to add brightness. Move the "Contrast" slider to the left or right to take away or add contrast, respectively. Click "OK" to save your changes. Your photo should now be lighter.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you ever make a mistake while editing your photographs, press "Ctrl" and "Z" at the same time to undo your last action.

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