Picture of How to lighten your photos.
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

Picture of 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....... 
SuavePotato5 years ago
There are a few methods that you can use that prevent the photo from looking washed out like the one in your final step.  The easiest way is to use the Curves option (In the colors menu) instead of the brightness/contrast option.  You can adjust the curve to get a more precise adjustment of the image.  

The more complicated but more effective way is as follows:
1. Duplicate the original layer
2. Desaturate the top layer to make it greyscale
3. Invert the colors.
4. Apply the gaussian blur filter with ~15-20 for the vertical and horizontal values.  At this point you should see a blurry black and white inverted image.
5. Change the mode from the top layer from 'normal' to 'overlay'
6. Select the bottom unedited layer and adjust the curve until the image is to your liking.

With the more complicated method, you can really get a lot of detail out of almost completely black images.  Here is an example (this image was only taken with a 1.3MP cheap camera so you can only enhance it so much).

 Hmm... It gave me the option to add images but they did not seem to show up.  So I just threw them on Imgur.

Before:  imgur.com/yvY0v
After: imgur.com/LxdGb

Computothought (author)  SuavePotato5 years ago
Computothought (author)  Computothought3 years ago
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.  It takes some tweaking to get things looking right.