How to create lighting in photoshop

Written by heather laurent
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How to create lighting in photoshop
Photoshop can mimic the lighting created by spotlights and floodlights. (spotlight image by Pontus Edenberg from

Lighting, an essential component of any photograph, can make the difference between professional and amateur-quality work. Photoshop offers several options to manipulate the lighting in your photo, including directional lighting, fill light and many more. If you were unable to achieve the correct lighting in your original photo, adding or modifying light in post production can give you the results you want.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Image file
  • Photoshop

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  1. 1

    Open your image file in Photoshop by selecting File>Open.

  2. 2

    Manipulate the light distribution in your photo. Select Image>Adjustments>Levels, which opens a histogram corresponding to the distribution of different luminosity values in your image. To maximise "dynamic range," or the range of tones that appear in your image, drag the light and dark arrows until there are no empty gaps at either end of your histogram. Drag the grey arrow in the centre of the histogram to adjust your midtones. For a more advanced and powerful tool to adjust tonal range, select Image>Adjustments>Curves and adjust the curvature of the line on the graph corresponding to input/output values for luminosity tones to brighten or darken areas of your image.

  3. 3

    Use a lighting filter to create artificial light in your photo. Select Filter>Render>Lighting Effects. Choose between three types of lighting filters: Omni, Directional, and Spotlight. Omni creates a light source directly above the image, similar to a light bulb hanging from a ceiling. Directional casts a soft light from a distance, while Spotlight shines a beam of light from a direction and angle of your choice.

  4. 4

    Adjust the specific properties of your light type. Select a hue from the colour palette to add colour to your light. Adjust the Gloss level of your light from "Matte" to "Shiny" to determine how much your light will reflect off of objects in your photo. Adjust the Material slide bar to specify the colour of the light reflections: "Plastic" reflects the colour of your light while "Metallic" reflects the colour of your object. Choose an Ambience value for your photo to specify how much ambient light should be added to diffuse your primary light source.

  5. 5

    Save your Lighting Effects style for use in other images. Once you have adjusted all of the properties of the lighting filter to your satisfaction, save your custom filter by selecting "Save" and naming your style. When you open the Lighting Effects dialogue box in the future, the style will appear in the drop down menu.

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