Turn a dull photo in to a bright one, quick and easy

16 July 2014

You don’t need expensive programs like Photoshop to edit photos. There are a few free places around the web where you can do even professional-level stuff without even downloading a single file. Of course, some of these are pretty basic. If you want to get the best results, it's you need to use the best tools.

Pixlr is the one we use for quick touch-ups. You can go to the webpage or download the app from your app store. It can very quickly turn a disappointing photo in to a great one.

The app is simple-enough to use. Go in to Adjustment and use either Vibrance or Contrast. These are the two more useful features. Vibrance simple gives your picture a bit more color, while contrast lets you up the brightness and contrast, which can make things a bit more summery without losing detail. This is all great for basic stuff, but if you want to be a little more subtle, or precise, then you'll need the full online kit.

For the web page, all you need to know are 3 things:

  • Color balance
  • Levels
  • Curves

All of these functions are found in the Adjustment drop-down menu and they’re pretty easy to get the hang of with minimal practice.

It's totally up to you what kind of look you go for. You can either go for a realistic, subtle edit like the one above, or an all-out assault of color and vibrancy. There's no right or wrong when it comes to self-expression.

Color balance

A lot of digital photos come out favoring one color over another. This is very easy to fix. Just figure out what direction your photo is leaning in and drag that color downwards until it starts to look better. Even if it looks ok to you at first, try reducing the green (it's usually green) just a little bit and you might like the result.

If it’s a composite color, like yellow, then you’ll need to drag two colors down, probably not at the same rate. Remember, the three basic refractive colors of light (red, green, blue) are not the same as the blue, red and yellow reflective colors that you learn in school. They interact a bit differently. For instance, green and red make yellow.


Photo looking a bit dark? Don’t just amp up the brightness. That can leave it looking washed-out and lose some of the details. Instead, either turn to Levels or Curves. Levels is a bit easier to use. Make sure you leave the Channel set to “RBG”, otherwise you’ll be changing the color balance.

Generally, you can make a picture a bit brighter by dragging the middle tab downwards and the left-most tab towards the center. Try not to go overboard because that can lead to some crazy effects.


Curves works similarly to Levels, but you can sometimes benefit by using both of them. If you can’t quite get the vibrance out of your photo without it starting to look a bit weird, go as far as you can from Levels and then turn to Curves.

Pull the top of the curve to the left, then the bottom a little to the right. Once again subtlety is the key, so don’t go nuts.

Of course, if you need to darken your photo then move everything in the opposite direction.

Have a play around

Pixlr is impressively in-depth considering that it’s free. Have a play around and see what other crazy effects you can come up with. Hue & Saturation , also found in Adjustment, is another good one for making your pic stand out with eye-catching colors.

Sharpen, found in Filters, can make a blurry image just that little bit more crisp.

There are also all of the standard editing tools available. Don’t forget to make use of cropping to get your frame perfect. And don’t be afraid to try your hand at making composite pics by taking from one image and pasting in to another.

Have fun!

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