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Photo editing - Photoshop Elements: add photo lighting effects

Back in October I took this photo, in front of our house. A cool scene, bright colors and a double rainbow. After seeing this picture on my Flickr page, I received an e-mail from Marco who asked me about the post process of this image. Now here is my answer…
Choose your image carefully

First of all I need to mention that some pictures are better suitable than others. It's a good thing to experiment a lot and find out if the result is to your liking. Btw, not all settings I suggest are written in stone. Sometimes you discover the best effect by accident. How it looks good for you also boils down to personal preference. Let's take this picture as an example and create this same effect.

With this topmost layer selected, open the Lighting Filter (Filters > Render > Lighting Effects). 

This filter is like a self-contained program in itself, and using it you can achieve a raft of lighting effects, from simulated spotlights to washing an image with soft, omni-directional light.

The left side of the filter’s dialog box features a preview pane that shows how an image will appear if you applied the filter using the current settings. The right side of the box is where you pick the lighting style and apply further adjustments.

It is divided into four sections:

Place the image in a separate layer. In the Layers palette click the adjustment layers menu icon and select "Brightness/Contrast". Check the preview option so you see the direct result. Set the Contrast to +20. Hit OK. Click the adjustment layers menu icon again and select "Hue/Saturation". Set the Saturation to +20. Hit OK.

Choosing a lighting style for your photo

Clicking Style brings up a long menu of preset lighting effects, but we wish to create our own, so will select Default. Once you’ve customized a style, you can also choose to save all your settings here for future use.

First, in Light Type, select a light source. There are three options: Omni (diffused); Directional; (light flows in a single direction from the source); and Spotlight (light is focused on a point).

For our purposes Omni works best, as it generates the kind of soft, glowing effect we need. As with most of Photoshop’s filters, the key is to play with different settings until you find something that works.

The default setting for light intensity in this image is 35, which works just fine, so there’s no need to change it. The Focus option is greyed out because Omni light is non-directional, so has no focal point.

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Add another adjustement layer. This time choose "Curves...". Select the Red channel and make sure the edit points icon is selected. Change the curve line a bit as show in the image above.

Select the layer with your photo and go to the Filter menu and select "Convert for Smart Filters". Doing this means you can apply filters to the photo while leaving your original in tact. First you'll get a message that says the layer will be converted into a smart object. Click OK. With this approach you'll be able to adjust the filters you've applied at any time. These Smart Filters work a bit like Adjustments layers but then with filter effects.

Now go to the Filter menu and select Distort > Lens Correction. In the Vignette option set the amount to -100 and the midpoint to +50. Hit the OK button. You'll see the Smart Filter appear below the layer. Double clicking this will open the Lens Correction filter options again where you can adjust anything you want. Double clicking the slider icon on the right will give you the option to adjust the layer mode and the transparency of the effect on the layer. Set the value to 70%.


You could say OK we're done, but there is one little accent that our photo needs to give that real vintage touch. These photos always have some pinkish glow as if colors are faded from the sun. Therefor click the adjustment layers menu icon in the Layers palette again and select "Solid Color". Select a very bright hot pink magenta color and click OK. Change the opacity of the layer to 5%. That's it. Now you should have a vintage photo.

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Photo editing - Photoshop Elements: add photo lighting effects