3 Easy Steps to Brighten Dark Images Like A Pro

Yesterday I ended up on this blog from a Pin.  The post was talking about how to brighten dark (underexposed) images in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.  It also explained how to give the photo some pop or oomph.  In the comments a couple folks asked how to do this in Lightroom.  If you’re wondering the same thing, I have great news.  It’s incredibly easy.
Btw, these quick tips will work on pics that are exposed correctly as well.  What I mean is: high key (bright, snappy) images are “in” right now.  Actually, I’d say most people prefer an over exposed image (where skin tones approach “blown”).  Pro photographers everywhere have built their style around a very bright (over exposed) feel.
All to say,  the need for brightening images effectively is at an all time high.
That said, here’s a 4 minute screencast which walks through the simple process step-by-step.

Video Recap

It can be as easy as the exposure, contrast, and vibrance sliders.

These 3 sliders tend to make the most sense to folks.  Exposure adds the brightness, while contrast and vibrance adds the snap.  It will get the image a long way in just a few short seconds and 3 very easy steps.  But…

Curves work the best.

I demonstrated a preset that I had made called “This Just Works.”  A preset, btw, is just like a recipe of sorts…they’re just a saved set of editing instructions.  As you see in the video, my “This Just Works” preset gives a ton of snap, brightens and smooths skin tones, and adds a tiny cross-processed (vintage) flavor to the image.
I achieve all of this mainly through the Curves adjustments, which is beyond the scope of this post.  Actually, it already is an entire lesson in the SPS Members Course.  All members can download the preset for free, so if you’re member, head on over to this lesson to get the preset!
Here’s some before and afters…

SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera)




Side by Side


Black Levels…an important ingredient for a future lesson.

One ingredient that I didn’t talk about for this tip is “black levels.”  But I’ll save it for another tip.  Many images, when you brighten them, lose all their weight and snap in the shadows.  Black Levels are the easy way to regain the anchor that deep shadows provide to an image.

Not a Member? Leave a comment below for a chance to win the preset.

Along with instructions on how to use it, of course!  All you have to do is download a free trial of Lightroom, or just buy it (for as little as $9.99 a month along with Photoshop), and then I’ll send you the preset along with a tutorial on how to get started.

Better Yet, share this post with a friend.  If they win, they can share it with you 🙂

So yeah, just leave a comment below to enter.  Winner will be picked at random on Friday night before the clock strikes midnight.
Make sure and Sign Up For My Blog Updates to receive all future tips delivered straight to your inbox!  

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        1. There was a little contest to win the preset, but it has ended. The preset is available to the members of our paid course, The Photo Fix. Sorry for the confusion!

  1. Hi, Kyle. Is there a link to purchase the preset written about in the above article? Thank you for taking the time to blog about LR corrections. Your time is greatly appreciated 🙂

      1. I know I’m late to the party but I just discovered your site and I’m having so much fun roaming around. Any way to still get your preset? Thanks!

  2. Hi. I know it’s very late, is there still any way to get the preset? Thanks

  3. Would love this preset! Have a fancy camera but just keep using my iPhone! Need help!

  4. Hello, like the others, I am wondering if the preset is still available? Thank you for all these amazing lessons and tips! I am learning so much. I’m so glad I joined Shultz photo school!

  5. Thank you so much for posting how to fix underexposed photos in LR! When I heard you mention your preset, the first thing I wondered was if you sell this preset and if you sell others’, And, How would I go about purchasing from you?……….
    Then I saw that the date on this post is 2 1/2 years old. Lol.
    I read through the comments and where you mention your course. My money is super tight right now, as I’m off work 2nd to needed surgeries…. I will be saving this post to help remind me about your course once I have my money situated, and all caught up, I will look more into it. I still wanted to thank you for the FREEBIE Tips. I can afford those 🙂