My Photo Is Too Dark Tutorial?

Weyson, this is for you.

Très souvent, on trouve que la photo qu’on a prise est très sombre. Qu’est-ce qu’il faut faire? Thanks to Photoshop, we can fix color (des fois dit Color Correction) in photos easily. In this suite of tutorials, I will show two popular ways to color-correct your photos. In this post, I will show you one of it.

1. Levels

As suggested by it’s name, levels help in controlling the different levels or tones of color in our photos. An example should make it clear.


In this photo, the foreground and the background are too dark. To use levels tool, the whole picture has to be in the same tonal problem due to the limitation of the levels adjustment tool. I’ll explain it more later. Let’s open it up from Image > Adjustment >Levels… A pop up window will open.


There are a few things to say in input levels. The black mountain-like graph is called histogram. From left to right, is from dark to bright, and the height represents the amount of that particular tone the picture contains. In the photo example, there are some dark part, and it gets drastically higher when it goes to the right. Then it goes down again gradually to the middle. As we go away from the middle part, the histogram gets higher as in the picture the photo contains a greyish sky. The brightest part (the most right) does not have any adata. This suggests that there is no white or really bright area in the photo.

As you can see, there are three triangle-like pointers under the histogram, one in black (Shadows), one in grey (Midtones), and the last one in white (Highlights). Shadows are the areas where the tones are darker ie black. Midtones are the area where normally we can see things with vivid colors. Highlights are the area where white is dominant. If you move shadows to the right, Photoshop converts all the area to the left of it to black. If you move highlights to the left, Photoshop will convert the area to the right of it to white.

The use of midtones is to control the amount of tones in between shadows and hightlight. It stretches the tonal gradient between shadows and highlights. If it is closer to the shadows, the photo will have a brighter tones. If it is closer to the highlights, the picture will be darker.


See what happen when I change the positions of the midtones and higlights. The foreground becomes brighter as the midtones are closer to the shadows. The sky become brighter while the blackish part of the plants was not affected. This is the limitation with the levels tools. You cannot change the darkest part (black) brighter and vice versa.
Changing the output levels position will result in dull picture or if reversed, result in negative picture. What output levels do is to limit the original tones to certain smaller range of tones so that the black is not so black or the white is not so white.

Let’s hit OK and go back to the levels window.

After Levels

The histogram changes. What it did was expanding the original area between the shadows and midtones, and convert all the area to the right of highlights to white. We can see now the most right part of the histogram has some data. Unfortunately, there comes the second problem with Levels. The tones are not smooth. What does this signify? It might not be apparent in this photo, but transition in some other picture might be crispy. Chips? Not exactly. The colors might change drastically from a pixel to another because as you can see, in the histogram there are gaps between tones. This means some tones are not represented anymore in the picture.

That’s why, I can say most users of Photoshop (even professional photographers) prefer another method to do color-correction since it gives more possibility than Levels tool, and it is the famous Curves tool. I’ll post about that later since it is a little bit complicated. For more info, you can go to Photoshop Help, and go the Contents menu under making color and tonal adjustment. Good Luck!



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