Digital Photography Tweaks – Lighting

The best way to get the lighting, or exposure, correct in your photographs is when taking them. But that’s not always possible. Mother nature doesn’t always cooperate, so photo editors can pick up the slack. As mentioned in an earlier post, over exposure, or an image that’s too light, is harder to correct, but can be improved. Under exposure, or an image that’s too dark, will usually be easier to work with.

The simplest way to adjust exposure in digital images is using the brightness and contrast controls. In my experience you should modify both settings. I prefer a little more contrast than brightness. Once you get a chance to play with these two settings, you’ll have your personal preferences. Here’s a picture of some wild phlox I took this spring. It was not a sunny day, but the flowers begged to be photographed.


It took less than a minute to significantly improve the image.


Load an image you want to work with into PSP. Then use the Adjust pull down menu to select Brightness and Contrast, and then the Brightness/Contrast… controls. Again, click these images to see them full size.


The brightness and contrast controls are simple but powerful. There’s a Preview on Image check box in the upper right. Check this, so as you make changes to the controls, you can see the changes reflected in the image. Don’t worry. Changes won’t be made permanent until you click OK.


You can ignore Settings and the Linear Mode check box. The two controls for Brightness and Contrast can be adjusted with the sliders or by changing the numbers directly. Brightness can be negative or positive. With this dark image you want to increase the brightness. Contrast is from zero to 100. As you can see, I set contrast to slightly higher than the brightness. Play with these settings and you’ll see what changes each control can produce. When your happy with your image, click OK and save the image file.

If you prefer GIMP, the controls are almost identical. Load your image into GIMP. Then use the Colors pull down menu to click on the Brightness-Contrast… selection.


With GIMP the controls are very similar to PSP. The Preview check box is in the bottom left. Check it so you can preview your changes. Ignore Presets and Edit these Settings as Levels. The Brightness and Contrast are both controlled by sliders, and by numbers you can change directly. In GIMP both of the controls can be negative or positive.


Play with the controls to see what changes you can make to the image. When you’re satisfied click on the OK button, and export your image.

Changing the lighting of your digital pictures is easy, but a very effective way to improve your photos. Please ask any questions in the comments section.



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