We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
2,862 Tutorials

How to correct a badly exposed photo

Also: how to deliberately under- or over expose a photo

You can correct a poorly exposed photo using photo-editing software. Here's how.

With automatic exposure, badly exposed photos ought to be a thing of the past but things aren't quite that simple. For a start the camera assumes that the scene has a mid-level level of reflectivity but if you shoot in a highly reflective environment like snow, the camera will under-expose and in a scene with a lot of dark objects it'll tend to over-expose.

To compensate for this you should tell the camera to deliberately over or under-expose respectively. Very bright skies can also result in everything else being under-exposed and a solution here is to use the exposure lock feature available on many cameras so the exposure is based on the part of the scene you're most concerned about.

If you do end up with a poorly exposed photo, though, modest correction can readily be made. What's more, you can use the same techniques to create a deliberate over or under-exposure for dramatic effect. Underexposing an evening landscape, for example, could give a very spectacular sky against a silhouetted skyline.

All the tools you'll need are on the Home tab. For maximum flexibility use the Luminance Curve, available in the ‘Color, Brightness' menu, which works in the same way as Color Curves. An easier solution is to use Brighten or Darken, also in the ‘Color, Brightness' menu, selecting how much correction to apply.

This article is part of our Fix your photos for free feature, and uses the free Photoscape image editor from www.photoscape.org. The principles apply to other image editing software, but the steps below explain how to achieve the fix in Photoscape.

Improving a poorly exposed photo: before

Poorly exposed photo before

Improving a poorly exposed photo: after

Poorly exposed photo after

IDG UK Sites

6 best gaming PCs 2015: What's the best gaming PC you can buy in the UK?

IDG UK Sites

Three of the most expensive Limited Edition games ever made: Who's buying a $1,000,000 game?

IDG UK Sites

The future of Microsoft Surface: What to expect from the Surface Pro 4

IDG UK Sites

Best Mac: Apple Mac buyers guide for 2015: iMac, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini and...