Overly dark photographs are a common problem caused by under-exposure to light or complicated lighting situations. Nonetheless, with a little bit of Photoshop skill, this frequent problem can be easily alleviated.
Let me present to you the remedy for this hindrance: the Levels tool.
With your dark photograph open in Photoshop, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels…
Here you will be presented with a histogram representing the tonal range of dark and light pixels contained within your photograph. The further right of the graph you go, the lighter the range of tones and the further left you go, the darker the range of tones. Through this graph you can tell the distribution of light to dark pixels in the photograph.
Now on the bottom of the graph you will see three tiny arrows, which you can control: the Black Point on the left, the Midpoint in the middle and the White Point on the right. Have a go at playing around with these controls. You’ll find pulling the black point to the right will darken the photograph, especially the darkest parts. Alternatively, pulling the white point to the left will lighten the lightest parts of the photograph and moving the midpoint either side will increase or decrease the lightness respectively – this makes it ideal for adjusting the overall tones of a photograph.
Ideally, you want to position the black and white points to the edge of the histogram “mountains” in order to balance the photograph out, but this isn’t always necessary. For the majority of dark photographs, making sure Preview is ticked and moving the Midpoint arrow toward the left until you can see if the photograph is light enough to your likening is the way to go.
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