Nothing beats “getting it right in the camera”. But if the exposure isn’t perfect, a lot can still be achieved.

Step 1:

My friend snapped this shot of yours truly at a viewing deck on the Gold Coast. Unfortunately the flash didn’t fire, but I wanted to save the photo for my collection anyway.

An underexposed image

Step 2:

The trouble is, if I lighten the photo uniformly, I lose the fantastic view. So I need to be a little more clever.

An underexposed image

Step 3:

First, I select the foreground …

An underexposed image

Step 4:

… and lighten it. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s a good start.

An underexposed image

Step 5:

Then I invert the selection, so I can boost the colors of the view.

An underexposed image

Step 6:

Time to get down to details. I select myself …

An underexposed image

Step 7:

… and enhance various areas. I add more color to the skintone, lighten the shirt a little more, and balance the light and shadow areas as necessary.

An underexposed image

Step 8:

A few more little adjustments, and some sharpening, and I’m done.

Use the slider to compare original to final: