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‘!

How to brighten your underexposed image using your iPhone

The original dark and underexposed image

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 Google, 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.

Snapseed App
2. Open the app, and load your photo that is underexposed. Tap on the ‘Select from device’ menu item.  This will open your photo album where you can choose your image.

Tap on the ‘Use’ button on the preview page to edit the selected image.

3. Tap on the Edit button down on the right hand side, the one with the pencil icon.

How to brighten your underexposed image using your iPhone

4. The Tools and Filters menu will come up.

How to brighten your underexposed image using your iPhone

Tools and Filters Page

5. Tap on the ‘Tune Image‘ rectangle button. The Tune Image menu is a collection of ‘image editing’ tools which includes Brightness, Ambiance, Contrast, Saturation, Highlights,  Shadows and Warmth.

How to brighten your underexposed image using your iPhone

Tune Image

Many of you might have thought that we are going to use the Brightness tool. It is a good guess. Why? Well we are trying to ‘brighten up‘ a photo, surely the Brightness tool would be the most logical choice.

As a matter of 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 will need to use today instead is the ‘Shadows‘ tool!

6. 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 and hold on the photo and slide up or down. This action will make the tool selection menu appears. Choose the Shadows tool.

How to brighten your underexposed image using your iPhone

Choose Shadows tool

7. The label 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

How to brighten your underexposed image using your iPhone

Shadow tool

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.

How to brighten your underexposed image using your iPhone

Shadow tool

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 SAVE button at the top of the screen).
9. Done!

How to brighten your underexposed image using your iPhone

The after edit image

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.