I've tried something before that gave me pretty good results.

I had a picture with an over exposed sky. I created an additional layer.
Use the gradient tool and made a linear
gradient such that it was gray on the top and white on the bottom of the
pic. Then I choose 
"DIVIDE" as the operation 
b/w the two layers. That seemed to do the trick.

as an extension of that, I was recently playing around with an image
with dark areas.
I selected the dark areas with the free-hand selection tool, holding
down ctrl to get the union of the areas.
copied it.
created a new transparent layer
pasted the image as a floating selection.
anchored the floating selection( in the layer tool ) down to the new
choose the operation to be "DIVIDE"( you will see white now/as in all
the dark areas,as this what the layer divided by itself is )
choose the new/top layer.
Gaussian blur it( to get smooth lighting )( feel free to omit this step
choose the file->image->color->brightness-contrast tool.
play around with the brightness till you get the desired illumination.(
the brighter the scale is the darker the resulting dark areas will be )
before saving the file( Ctrl-M or flatten the picture to a single layer
Thats it !

This might not be a proven method.

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clemensF wrote:
> hi.
> my father took a picture of a technical device he built, but the
> lighting was poor and he can't try again.  we have a good color
> digital image, but no negatives, because he borrowed a digital
> camera to do it.  i tried to give the dark parts more light, but
> it shows too much.
> i would post an image were it not so huge (half a megabyte).
> how can i "lighten up" the dark parts, leave the good parts alone
> and not have it show so much?
> clemens

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