Digital Toolbox: Bright Ideas

Three quick ways to fix underexposure.

Was your camera's autofocus tricked by a bright spot in the frame? Did you underestimate the exposure you'd need for your subject?

Try these techniques to salvage those too-dark images.

Levels
1. Get the Levels tool by going to Image > Adjustments > Levels.
2. To brighten midtones, click on the gray slider and move it to the left.
3. Your picture might start looking a little flat, so move the black slider to the right.
4. To add brightness and contrast, nudge the white slider left. Click OK.

Curves
1. If your shot could use overall brightness, but you like the contrast, try this fix in Curves. Open Curves by going to Image > Adjustments > Curves.
2. Click in the dead center of the Curves box to create a midpoint on the line.
3. Then, drag that point up toward the upper left corner to brighten the midtones -this will keep the black and white points where they are. Hit OK when you like the amount of added brightness.

Shadow /Highlight
No tool fixes a backlit subject faster than Shadow/Highlight, which corrects the too-dark shadows and can even darken highlights when they're overly bright.
1. Get the Shadow/Highlight tool by going to Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight.
2. Move the Shadows slider right: The default value of 50% is good, but pushing it up to 72% is better.
3. Add some tone back into the highlights by moving the Highlights slider right, to about 7%. This will even out the picture's tone. Click OK, and you're all set.