No matter how careful we are when we are out and about taking pictures, and no matter how much knowledge we have about Photography, once in a while we will still get into some incident where the photo we took had come out dark or underexposed (in photographic term).

With Mobile Photography these incidents (or sometimes could be also accidents) are even more likely to happen since the camera in our smartphone has a limited control over the exposure, unlike its bigger and more professional siblings (AKA DSLR).

So, what can we do about it? Is it possible to ‘fix‘ those dark underexposed photos? Can we, let’s say, brighten them up a bit so at least we can see something? The answer is a resounding ‘YES‘!


See Also: Turn your photos into beautiful watercolour sketches


Now, usually to do this type of image manipulation, you would need a desktop class imaging software, something like Photoshop for example. But this type software are usually quite expensive. Besides, you would need a PC or a Mac to run the software, which is yet another complication.

Well not anymore! I am going to tell you the easiest way to brighten up your dark photos. And not only that you can do this only using your smartphone or tablet, but also you can do this for FREE!

Just follow the steps below and you’ll be fine:

1. First you need to get Snapseed App. This app is FREE and available for iOS and Android devices.  Snapseed is a very powerful editing app from Nik Software, and it has been my go to app since it was first released.  If you haven’t installed it yet, this is the best time to get it.

2. Open the app, and load your photo that is underexposed. Tap on the plus button at the top left of the app and choose Photo Album from the slide up menu. Then you can choose the photo from your photo album.

3. Next, you will see down at the bottom a row of more icons, these are menus from which you can select more editing tools or filters. Look for one that’s called ‘Tune Image‘ and tap on it.

Tap on Tune Image

4. The Tune Image menu is a collection of ‘image editing’ tools which includes Brightness, Ambiance, Contrast, Saturation, Shadows and Warmth.

Many of you might’ve thought that we are going to use the Brightness tool. It is a good guess. Why, we are trying to ‘brighten up‘ a photo, surely the Brightness tool would be the most logical choice. In fact under normal circumstances, Brightness would indeed be the right choice. But not this time. Later I will tell you why Brightness is not a good choice in this case. But in the meantime, the tool that we need today is instead the ‘Shadows‘ tool!.  The Shadow tool is actually one of the latest additions to Snapseed from the last update, and it has been an invaluable image editing tool for me.

5. Snapseed has a somewhat quirky user interface, but you don’t need to worry about it because it’s so intuitive it won’t take a minute to get used to it. To access the collection of the tools you must tap on the photo and slide up or down. This action will make the tool selection menu appears. Choose the Shadows tool.

Slide up or down to select the tools

6. The label in the little window on the bar underneath the photo should tell you which tool you choose, in this case it should read Shadows. Under this label is a number which value will change as you change the effect of the tool. You can change the effect of the tool by swiping your finger left or right on the photo. Swiping left means decreasing the effect, and the number will reflect this by decreasing the value. Swiping right means increasing the effect, again the number will also reflect this by increasing the value. In this way you can always monitor the strength of the tool’s effect at any time.


See Also: Create beautiful paintings from your photos using Brushstroke


Go swipe left and right now to have a look at how the Shadows tool effecting your photo. As you swipe you can see that the Shadows tool will brighten up or down ONLY the dark part of the photo and will leave the bright part of the photo practically alone. This the main difference between the Shadows tool and the Brightness tool. If you were using the Brightness tool, both the dark and the light part of the photo will be effected equally. In some photos, for example ones that feature sky in it, this effect is undesirable because the sky will get overcast and eventually you will just see white space where the sky was. Have a look at some examples below to see what I mean.

8. When you are happy with you edit, tap on the tick icon to affect the change. You will then be taken to the main screen where you can save your edited photo (tap on the share icon at the top right of the screen).
9. Done!

Hope you enjoy this tips, let me know what you think about it in the comment below, or whether you want me to write any specific tips or tutorials. Feel free to share this tips, the share links are on the left hand side.