How To Brighten A Dark Under-Exposed Image In Photoshop

This new tutorial explains how we can improve on the brightness of a dark  and underexposed image in Photoshop.

If you have an underexposed image we recommend that you start with this technique that you are about to see before doing other processing on the image.

Video: Brighten those under-exposed Photos!!

Here’s a summary of the steps:

(View the video for full details and explanations)

  1. Load your image in Photoshop.
  2. Drag the background layer down onto the new layer icon to create a background duplicate layer.
  3. Convert the duplicate copy into a smart object.
  4. Select on Filter on the menu
  5. Click on Convert for Smart Filters.
  6. Then go back to the Filter Menu
  7. Click on the Camera Raw Filter
  8. You will see the same control that you see in Lightroom and Camera Raw appear on the right section of the screen.
  9. Adjust the Exposure slider to adjust the brightness evenly across the image and and until the desired brightness is achieved.
  10. Note: Avoid adjusting the Highlights and Whites sliders too much as the image may look more HD instead of getting a natural finish.
  11. Click Okay to apply the changes you have made.
  12. You can toggle off and on on the duplicate background layer to see the changes that you have made.
  13. Drag the duplicate background layer down onto the new layer icon to create a second background duplicate layer.
  14. Open the Smart filter on the second background duplicate layer
  15. Select the Camera raw filter, this reopen the camera raw filter with the same settings applied from the previous one.
  16. Go to the Detail tab and adjust the Luminance slider between 20 and 30 in order to reduce the noise on your image.
  17. Adjust the color noise as well by moving the sliders without losing the detail of your image.
  18. Click on Ok to save the changes you have made.
  19. Add a layer mask on to the second background duplicate layer.
  20. Click on Command or Ctrl+I on the keyboard to invert the mask to hide this layer.
  21. Select the brush tool with the white foreground.
  22. Leave the opacity to 100%.
  23. Start brushing on the layer mask to reveal the noise reduction layer.
  24. Select both duplicate background layer.
  25. Click on the create a new group icon, this will automatically group the two duplicate background layer.
  26. Add a new layer mask to the group.
  27. Click on the quick selection tool and click onto the sky area.
  28. Once the sky is selected lower the opacity level to 30% or 40%
  29. Click on the brush tool with a black foreground then brush on to the overexposed sky.
  30. Click on Command or Ctrl+D to deselect the quick selection tool.
  31. Reduce the opacity level of the Group until the color on the foreground and the sky is balanced.
  32. You can also adjust the Density slider to balance out the color between the foreground and the sky.


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Comments on How To Brighten A Dark Under-Exposed Image In Photoshop

  1. GuyAtchley says:

    Very very useful tutorial.
    I have some images that will definitely be improved by this.

  2. Raja says:


  3. Cathleen says:

    Thanks! This is very useful.

  4. Darren Brothwell says:

    Well explained I can see me using this technic.

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