Dynamic Rays Of Light

So you have a nice silhouette of someone special that has a beautiful sunset backlighting the scene. Using this tutorial, I’m going to show you exactly how to make the sunset ever more dymanic.

Step 1 – Find that photo
I don’t have a photo that I’ve taken that I could use, so I found one on the net that had a perfect setting. Check it…

Step 2 – Duplication
You certainly don’t want to ruin the one copy of your pic, so first off, make sure that you are working on a copy. We want to make a duplicate of the photo. One way of doing this is using the keyboard shortcut CTRL+J (win) / COMMAND+J (mac). In your layers palette, you will notice a exact duplicate of the layer above the original layer.

Step 3 – Light Source
To make the sunlight much more dymanic, you need to find where exactly the light source is originating from. First off, make absolutely sure you are working on the duplicate layer. Either using the shortcut CTRL+L (win) / COMMAND+L (mac) or Image > Adjustments > Levels, go to the levels slider.

You want to take the "Middle Slider" & move it all the way to the right.

Your image should look something
like this now…

Step 4 – Form the Rays of Sunlight
Now you are going to use the Radial Blur filter to create the rays of light emanating from the sun.

Filter > Blur > Radial Blur

Once there, use these settings

After you have your settings ready, you will need to move the blur to where the light will be coming from. The bad part is, there is no live preview so this will have to be done by trail and error. Move it around, then click ok.

At first, you will notice that they don’t really look like rays of light & are speckled. Don’t fret. Use CTRL+F (win) / COMMAND+F (mac) to apply the filter a couple of more times. Your result will be something along these lines…

Step 5 – Blend It In
Now that you have your rays of light the way that you want them, you need to blend them into the photo. All that you need to do is change the "Layer Style" to "Screen". This only lets the lighter pixels show through. The darker the pixels, the more transparent. Easy enough, right.

Step 6 – Make The Light More Intense
Now your rays don’t really give off the POW! that you are going for. Using your "Levels" slider (CTRL+L (win) / COMMAND+L (mac)) we’ll fix this. Once the dialog box is open, start dragging the Right Slider to the left. You will notice the farther left, the more intense. Don’t go to far or it will start looking fake.

Step 7 – A Little Cleaning Up
Now that your light is more prominent, you may start to notice there are small speckles everywhere. This is fixable by applying a filter a few time.

Filter > Noise > Despeckle

Use this filter a few times (CTRL+F (win) / COMMAND+F (mac)) til you are happy with what you have.

Step 8 – Time For Masking
Hopefully you understand how light works. You know that light doesn’t shine through everything. You need to apply a "Mask" to erase the areas that light is not going through.

Make sure that you are still on your duplicate layer.

Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All

Be sure that you have the "Mask"thumbnail selected before you proceed. You will know if there is a white outline around the mask in the layers palette like so…

Now go ahead and start "Erasing"
(E) the areas where light will not be passing through. Depending
on the image, some of you may erase more than others.

Step 9 – Emphasize The Light
Looking good, right. You have come this far now & the end is now in sight. In this step you are going to emphasize the colours of the light. First off, in the layers palette, make sure that you have the thumbnail of the image selected.

Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation or simply CTRL+U (win)/ COMMAND+U (mac)
This will bring up the "Hue/Saturation" dialog box Set the "Hue" & "Lightness" both to "0" but the "Saturation"
is up to you. Just don’t go up to much because once again you can make it look very unreal.

There you go, you now have a finished project. Adding this little bit to the pic made a huge difference in the way that it looks. Happy Photoshopping.

Leave a comment