Sometimes all a photograph needs to really pop is a lighting treatment. Unfortunately, natural lighting or your light kit may not be sufficient for the effect you’re trying to create. Instead, why not leverage the power of Adobe Photoshop software or the Adobe Lightroom app?

I’ll show you how. But first, check out the original sample image (Figure A).

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Figure A: Original Image
Ant Pruitt

Creating light in Lightroom

Using Lightroom to create light is a technique, which utilizes the adjustment brush.

  1. Press “k” (Figure B) on your keyboard to activate the adjustment brush and select the exposure option.
  2. Then set the exposure to 2.0.
  3. Next, adjust your brush size to a small size relative to your light source, then click one time on your image near your light source.
Figure B
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Now, increase your brush size to approximately ten times larger by holding down your shift key and click near the bottom of your image (or away from your light source). This will create a streak on your image because the exposure is higher than what it normally is in that area. To make the light streak look more realistic, spend some time in the adjustment panel (Figure C) setting proper white balance, exposure, saturation, and more to blend the colors properly.

Figure C
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Creating Light in Photoshop

This technique is a little more elaborate in Photoshop, but still doable. There are more steps because it allows you to have more control over the final rendering of the light streak in your image.

  1. First, open the image in Photoshop and create a blank layer or top of the background layer. This allows you to work non destructively on your image.
  2. On the new blank layer, use the polygonal lasso tool (Figure D) to draw a shape depicting how you want your light streak to appear. After you draw your shape, go to the Select menu and choose modify, then select feather.
  3. Set the feather amount between 30 and 40 pixels. This allows your newly drawn shape to not have a hard edge on your image.
Figure D
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Now that the shape is drawn, paint it with an applicable color to work best with the light source of your image (Figure E). Be sure to use a soft brush with the hardness level set to 0, and the opacity set between 50 and 60 percent.

After you fill the area with color, add a Gausian blur to it. In the Gausian blur dialog box, make sure the preview checkbox is checked. This allows you to get a visual of your blur settings before clicking OK. Set the blur pixel radius to fit your needs.

Figure E
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Finish up the light streak by adding a hue and saturation adjustment layer. Be sure to clip the adjustment layer to the light streak only. This way the whole composite isn’t affected by your adjustment layer changes. If you see any hard edges on your light streak, use a layer mask and brush away the hard edges with a black soft brush. Your final output should look like Figure F.

Figure F: Final Image
Ant Pruitt

Like most Adobe software packages, there are several ways to do one task. Have you created faux lighting in any of your images? Did you have a particular technique you trust? Let me know in the comments below or tag me on Twitter with your feedback.