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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> Move the Light - Tutorial
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02/15/2007 11:54:35 AM · #1
Ever take a shot and then later think "I wish the light had been this way or that way?" It happens to me a lot, especially outside the studio where I have little control over the ambient light. Here is a fix that works wonders I thought I'd share with 60,000 of my closest friends. It's a method that does not destroy pixels and can be surprisingly forgiving.

We'll begin with this image (though practically any image can benefit from this technique in some amount):
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469233.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469233.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Now, knowing that the human eye will naturally be drawn to the brightest parts of an image, I want to use that to my advantage. I want the eye to first find the horse's head, then follow to the cart behind it, and I don't want the eye to trail off to the background. I'll begin my editing with that goal in mind.

So, step one is to add a new blank layer over your original layer (ctrl + shft + N).

Next, set your paintbrush to pure white & 100% opacity. Using the paintbrush tool, paint over your image where you think you want to add more light and/or highlights. It will look ridiculous, but don't worry, and don't worry about being tooooo precise either - as I mentioned, this technique is very forgiving.

You should have something that looks a bit like this: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469234.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469234.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
Silly, huh? :)

Now set your paintbrush to pure black & 100% opacity and paint over the areas you want to darken - again no need to be tedious about it.

Something like this: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469239.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469239.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Now for some magic...

With your goofy looking layer selected, change the Blending mode to Soft Light. ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469240.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469240.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

The image will still look dumb, don't worry: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469241.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469241.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Finally, choose Filter / Blur / Gaussian Blur and with a HEAVY hand blur the layer until your shadows and highlights blend seamlessly into your image -- ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469242.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469242.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

And your image should look something like this: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469243.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469243.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
(note I added contrast and tweaked levels for the final image)

Before and after comparison
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469274.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469274.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Note: You may want to do your Light and Dark adjustments on separate layers for more control. You can adjust the opacity of your Light and Dark layers to get precisely the look you want. You can repeat the above steps again and again on the same image until you get the results you want. You can also play with colors instead of black and white for different effects.

Let's have a quick look at using the same technique on a portrait:

Here is my starting image: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469235.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469235.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
It was shot on an overcast day and the light was flat.
Light and Dark added: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469236.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469236.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
Notice I added "light" on the forehead, bridge of the nose, just under the eyes and the chin - all places where sunlight would normally hit.
Blending mode changed to Soft Light & Gaussian blur added: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469237.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469237.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
And finally a bit of curves adjustment and sharpening for the finished portrait: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469238.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469238.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Before and after comparison
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469275.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/15266/thumb/469275.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Play around with it - see what you can do! :)

Message edited by author 2007-02-15 22:22:09.
02/15/2007 11:57:48 AM · #2
Cindi - You are my hero! Thanks for the tutorial....
02/15/2007 11:59:49 AM · #3
WOw ...nice trick..and I have been learning all about layer masks etc lately so this is Perfect!

Thanks Cindi!
02/15/2007 12:08:10 PM · #4
Cindi, you are amazing. Thank you for this very helpful info. :)
02/15/2007 12:12:46 PM · #5
that's awesome...i might just have to try it out!
02/15/2007 12:14:06 PM · #6
Thanks Cindi...I love learning all this new stuff. This is great.
02/15/2007 12:54:03 PM · #7
Thanks for the help!

BTW, where could I find other good tutorials about layers, masks and the like? I started to use Gimp, but just can't get my images the way I want...

Thanks again.
02/15/2007 01:10:03 PM · #8
Flavio - this (DPC tutorials)is a good place to start if you haven't checked them out already. Beyond that I find google continues to deliver new and more wonderful tutorials everytime I search.


02/15/2007 01:36:58 PM · #9
WOW!!! Thanks for the great "illustrated" tutorial. You're doing stuff I've never even heard of!!

Am I correct in assuming that this is perhaps an alternate and easier to control choice to dodging and burning? I'll have to play around with it a lot more, but my initial reaction is I'M IN LOVE!

Thanks again for sharing.
02/15/2007 01:46:29 PM · #10
Originally posted by RolandB:

...Am I correct in assuming that this is perhaps an alternate and easier to control choice to dodging and burning? ...


Yes, you are correct. Dodging & burning have their place, but remember that they directly change pixels and this method does not. You also have a great deal of control because you can have your adjustments in layers that remain changeable.

.... and you're welcome. :)
02/15/2007 01:49:55 PM · #11
Originally posted by idnic:

Dodging & burning have their place, but remember that they directly change pixels and this method does not. You also have a great deal of control because you can have your adjustments in layers that remain changeable.


Ah, I forgot about that. No more starting over when I've burned/dodged too much! Going to work with it now. :)

02/15/2007 01:50:28 PM · #12
Great tutorial! Thanks Cindi!
02/15/2007 01:52:19 PM · #13
Thanks for sharing, you are the greatest ever ;)

Amazing specially in the horse's image, my eyes goes to the cart in the original image in the secon they follow the horse first. Thumbs up!! girl
02/15/2007 02:07:21 PM · #14
Nice tutorial. I do something very similar as an alternative to dodge/burn but instead I use masked curves that acts as the painted layer.
02/15/2007 02:21:08 PM · #15
WOW ! That is really REALLY cool - thanks.
02/15/2007 02:45:42 PM · #16
Excellent. Reading through this gave me a much better insight on how use layers.
02/15/2007 03:20:38 PM · #17
I intentionally made this tutorial very BASIC with no more details than necessary to get the main process explained. Once you start playing around with it try using different opacity paintbrushes, colored paintbrushes, etc.... The sky is the limit.

And yes, with Photoshop there are a dozen ways to do everything, this is just one technique that works well.
02/15/2007 03:23:08 PM · #18
Nice tutorial UGLY horse.
02/15/2007 03:28:50 PM · #19
Thanks!
02/15/2007 03:40:40 PM · #20
Thanks for the tutorial. I will have to try this out. Thanks again!
02/15/2007 03:47:59 PM · #21
Great tutuorial. I'm gonna give this a try when I get home tonight.
02/15/2007 04:31:37 PM · #22
Would love to see some of the results of you guys playing with this technique. Please post 'em if you can. :)
02/15/2007 04:37:55 PM · #23
Good tutorial Cindi. Thanks for posting it up.
02/15/2007 05:15:33 PM · #24
Okay...I gave it a shot this afternoon.

The original picture is just awful! It's under natural lighting and I don't think I was using a tripod.
I've applied the techique and then desaturated the final photo.
It's still not great...but it sure is a lot BETTER!
Thanks, Cyndi, for something new! I see myself using this in the future!
' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/70299/thumb/469371.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/70299/thumb/469371.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
02/15/2007 05:23:29 PM · #25
This is great Cindi... thanks for posting!

I had this shot in my portfolio that I had already made a lot of improvments to, but it still wasn't right. This was such an easy way to fix it up!

Original: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/47852/thumb/324721.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/47852/thumb/324721.jpg', '/') + 1) . ' Edit: ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/47852/thumb/469372.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/47852/thumb/469372.jpg', '/') + 1) . '
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