How many diy article photos do i see that are so dark as to be unusable. There is a free program called "The Gimp" (available at http://www.gimp.org/) which is available for most platforms. You do not need Adobe Photoshop to to this simple technique I am about to show you. Now that I have a newer monitor, those old dark pictures do not appear to be so dark anymore. Technique is still the same if needed.

Other gimp tricks at http://www.instructables.com/id/Enhancing-female-photos/.
Update: I changed the intent of the instructable. (removed a few steps for other content.)

Step 1: Typical instructable photo

Can you discern what this photo is really about? My apologies to the author of the instructable for using their picture but....... 
There are a few methods that you can use that prevent the photo from looking washed out like the one in your final step. &nbsp;The easiest way is to use the Curves option (In the colors menu) instead of the brightness/contrast option. &nbsp;You can adjust the curve to get a more precise adjustment of the image. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> The more complicated but more effective way is as follows:<br /> 1. Duplicate the original layer<br /> 2. Desaturate the top layer to make it greyscale<br /> 3. Invert the colors.<br /> 4. Apply the gaussian blur filter with ~15-20 for the vertical and horizontal values. &nbsp;At this point you should see a blurry black and white inverted image.<br /> 5. Change the mode from the top layer from 'normal' to 'overlay'<br /> 6. Select the bottom unedited layer and adjust the curve until the image is to your liking.<br /> <br /> With the more complicated method, you can really get a lot of detail out of almost completely black images. &nbsp;Here is an example (this image was only taken with a 1.3MP cheap camera so you can only enhance it so much).<br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
&nbsp;Hmm... It gave me the option to add images but they did not seem to show up. &nbsp;So I just threw them on Imgur.<br /> <br /> Before: &nbsp;<a href="http://imgur.com/yvY0v" rel="nofollow">imgur.com/yvY0v<br /> </a>After:&nbsp;<a href="http://imgur.com/LxdGb" rel="nofollow">imgur.com/LxdGb</a><br /> <br />
Hmmm..<br />
Updated picture with newer monitor.
As a final step, if you adjust the transparency of the overlay layer, it will not appear so washed out. &nbsp;It takes some tweaking to get things looking right.

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