Fixing poor photo exposure

There were so many beautiful views from the windows in our B&Bs in Italy. I wanted to take photos every time I saw a pretty view, but they didn’t look good at all. Now, if I was a professional photographer, with a professional camera and using PhotoShop or Lightroom, I could make every photo perfect. I’m not. I use my smartphone for all my photos. But I have learned a couple of relatively simple things you can do to improve those photos. See my example below where Jim is enjoying breakfast at our B&B and I am in awe of the ancient hill town and church that is the view out the window. I grab my phone and snap a photo and it looks like #1 – I can see Jim and the breakfast table, but the view out the window is completely washed out – overexposed.

Fixing the washed out part

It’s really hard to fixed a washed out photo after the fact. The camera has not captured enough detail. There’s just not much to work with. It’s best to set your camera’s exposure to capture the bright parts best before you take the shot. On your smartphone, it’s easy to do. Just tap the screen at the bright part of the window. At least that’s how you do it on an iPhone. On my Samsung S21 Ultra I need to long press on the spot and then adjust even further by dragging left on the screen. Here’s a little video to show you what I mean:

Fixing the dark part

Now I have a nice photo of the view out the window, but Jim and the breakfast table are in the dark. I can use Google Photos editor to fix that. It’s called “Shadows.” I use this feature a lot when I have a photo with people in the shadows but the rest of the photo is ok.

Using the mobile app

  • Open the photo and tap the edit button
  • Scroll thru the bottom list and select “Adjust” – now you see lots of options on the upper row
  • Scroll thru the upper list and select “Shadows”
  • Adjust the slider to increase the number – that increases the light in the shadows without increasing the light in the rest of the photo.
  • When it looks better, tap Done, then Save

Using the computer, web version of Google Photos

  • Open the photo and tap the edit button
  • Choose the adjustments button at top right
  • Click the dropdown arrow next to Light and choose Shadow
  • Drag the slider button to the right until the photo looks better. This increases the light in the shadows without increasing the light in the rest of the photo.
  • Click Done (top right of the photo)

I know this still isn’t perfect. If the shadows were too dark, the lightened shadows will be grainy. The resulting photo probably won’t win any awards, but for purposes of my memories, it’s a lot better than the first original!

Note: if your phone’s camera has a setting for automatic HDR (High Dynamic Range of light) – be sure it is turned on. That helps capture more detail in both the light and dark parts of your photo.