Your photo is too dark | 5 Quick Tips to address this common problem

I’m sure you have found yourself there, staring at the back of your camera or smart phone, seeing a photo that is much too dark. The sky or the room behind the person looks fabulous, but the person you were hoping to see smiling back at you is virtually indistinguishable.

C’mon, admit it…I’ve seen your Facebook feed. ;)

I’ve done it myself. See?

Example of a poorly exposed photo

This photo is straight out of the camera. Notice the properly exposed background and the poorly exposed subject.

What happened, why, and what you can do to avoid this “photo is too dark”  problem in the future?

What happened?

Your camera has an internal light meter and its job is to adjust all the settings so that detail is preserved in the brightest parts of your photo. This meter will zero in on the brightest spot, and reduce the light across the entire photo to keep that brightest target area from over-exposing.


Have you seen photos where the flash has almost obliterated the subject and it’s mostly white? That is what this internal meter is trying to prevent, but sometimes it ruins photos just as much by going to the opposite extreme.

What can you do to prevent your camera from making a bad decision in your photo? Out think it!

1- Make sure your camera is not photographing the brightest light in the scene. This includes the bright sky, street lights, ceiling lights or even table lamps.

2- Adjust your angle in relation to your subject. Move to the left, to the right, turn the camera 90 degrees, or even stand on a chair if you need to in order to remove bright points of light from the frame.

3- Get closer. Along with changing your camera’s position in relation to any lights, try moving closer to your subject. Moving closer will reduce the size of the area your camera is trying to meter and will help you to remove unwanted brighter light from the scene.

4- Pull up some solid shade. Solid shade with no spots of sun breaking through can provide some of the best, even light. So take your photo of Aunt Jolene’s visit on your porch with her back to the house wall instead of with her back towards the brightly lit outdoors. Not only will you be able to see her, but the sun hitting the gray cement walkway or driveway will provide an extra kiss of light.

5- Make sure your smartphone camera app has a way to adjust exposure. There are many different camera apps on the market, but the best ones not only have the ability to select a focus point, they also allow you to move an icon around the photo that will adjust the exposure. So, if your people are underexposed, you can essentially tell the app “Ignore the rest of the photo, I want *this* part properly exposed”. It will then brighten the whole photo as much as it can, making sure that what you want to see is more visible.

I’m proud to say that my husband snubbed my disregard for the native camera app on my phone, initially, but now he’s a convert. :) He still doesn’t know how to use my ‘real’ camera, but that’s OK. I’m happy with progress! ;)


~Though there can be other factors in underexposed photos, this post was written with novice photographers in mind who do not know how to manually adjust their camera’s settings. If you have any questions, feel free to post a question below and I will try and answer.~

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