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Light Up Your Photos

Friday, October 27th, 2006 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography
 
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Light Up Your Photos

Have you ever taken pictures of big, pretty monuments, but they ended up being not so captivating? It happens to me all the time. Especially when I click pictures from the inside. You know, close to a window or something. Confused? Well, basically, I recently discovered a little trick that has been so helpful to me and I am going to share it with you nice folks today!

I am going to do a little “light on a famous monument” tutorial. For this, I am going to use the picture seen below.

At the end of the tutorial, you should be able to create a “divine light” effect coming from that once boring window. Let’s get started with step 1.

Open your image on a new layer in a new Photoshop document. Go to Select, Color Range. Now, we are going to separate the grain from the chaff. In the color range window that pops up, make sure to select Highlights and ensure that the Selection radio button is selected, as you can see in the screenshot given below. This should create a scary movie effect, but just go with it for now.

Now, we need to create a new layer using what has been copied after the color range action. Go to Layer, New, Layer Via Copy or you can press Ctrl + J to create a new layer. Press Ctrl + J once again to duplicate this new layer. With the top layer selected, do a quick radial blur. To do that, go to Filter, Blur, Radial Blur.

In the radial blur box, change the amount to 100, the Blur Method to zoom and the Quality to best. This part is very critical, as you need to position the radial blur according to the position of the light. If your source of light is on the left, you’ll place the radial blur on the left and vice versa. In the picture I am using, the source of light (the window) is pretty much in the middle, which is where I have left my radial blur focal point, as you can see in the screenshot below.

Now you will begin to see early signs of the desired effect. Apply this radial blur effect as many times as you think is necessary to make it look like you want. Remember, you don’t want too much of the divine light effect, because it will drown out the rest of the image. On the other hand, you don’t want to end up having not enough of the effect, because then it will be overshadowed by its surroundings. So, repeat this step according to taste and find your happy medium. To repeat the above step, either follow the procedure as we did earlier or simply press Ctrl + F as many as times as you want to repeat the effect.

Another way to magnify the lighting effect is to duplicate this radial blurred layer as many times as it takes to achieve the desired divine effect. Again, to duplicate the layers, hit Ctrl + J. After you are done with the above two steps, merge all the “light effect” layers together by pressing Ctrl + E. Remember to merge only the layers that have the light effect on them and not the layers with the original image.

With the top layer selected, run a little bit of a Gaussian blur on this image, just so the light scatters around a little bit more. Go to Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur to run this effect and select a radius of around one.

Chances are that after this step, your image will be looking a little bit over blurred. Well, don’t worry, I am not going to ask you to go and undo a few of the steps you did. In fact, excess effect is better than a lack in the effect. Now, to take some of the blur away on some parts of the image, we are going to use the brush tool (press E to quickly activate the brush). The points to be remembered here are that one, always use a soft brush and two, change the opacity of the brush to around 20 to 30, so that the un-blurring doesn’t seem too obvious.

For example, the image I am working on here is over blurred, especially when it comes to the window, so I am going to un-blur the window a bit. To do this, I have decided to select a big soft brush that covers the window in its entirety and just click once with it to subtly un-blur the effect. The settings I used are given below.

As you will see, the paintbrush acts like an eraser and by using this, you are simply “erasing” the blurring light effect, but very subtly. After this step, your light rays should be coming out very nicely. We are officially done with the light ray effect. Now, the only thing missing is the tone of the image. It’s a bit shabby still, isn’t it? To fix it, we are going to use levels. First, select the layer on which the original image resides. Then go to Image, Adjustments, Levels or press Ctrl + L to open the levels box.

When it comes to this image, I have worked to make it a bit darker at the back and make the front (the door) a bit more shiny. In plain simple language, I brought the right most slider toward the left and the left most toward the right. Just play around with it until your image starts to look good. It’s as simple as that. The settings I used for mine might not work for your picture, so it’s super important that you twirl the slider around. Given below is the image I ended up with.

It doesn’t take a Picasso to notice the difference between the before and after images, right? Go ahead give it a spin!

~ Yogesh Bakshi

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