Skip to main content

Lighting in Photoshop

Lesson 16 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

Lighting in Photoshop

Lesson 16 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

most popular photo & video

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

16. Lighting in Photoshop

Next Lesson: Gradients


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Why Composite ?


Logic Checklist


What Not To Do When Compositing


Shooting for Composite


Changing Backgrounds and Light


Shoot: Simple Swaps Part 1


Lesson Info

Lighting in Photoshop

we're going to jump into lighting today and lighting and photoshopped that's what I mean when I say lighting so I'm not so interested right now in talking about some of the things that we did yesterday which would be cutting and pasting and blending and stuff like that this is going to be much more about how to create light that's really dynamic and photoshopped how to create light that match is different pieces that you might be blending together things like that so I went through and he's thinking about my process a lot in in terms of photoshopped lighting and I would say that in everything that I do in my process the most important part is lighting and not usually in camera I usually use really flat lighting I usually it's very I don't know it lacks shadows and highlights it's just gray sugar so it's when I usually work with and that makes it really easy to apply a lot of different lighting effects to the image and photo shop so that's what we're going to talk about and I have a cou...

ple of different topics that we're going to go over that I use for almost every single image one would be vignette ing which I do in a little bit of a different way traditionally than just creating sort of a four point been yet around the image but sometimes I do the opposite of that we're all create sort of a white and blurred edge around the image we'll talk about that a little bit we're gonna talk about changing the direction of light matching up body parts then they fit together we're going to talk about lighting effects in in filter in photo shop and a whole bunch of different things radiance phil layers stuff like that so let's get started with this image that I have pulled up here and this picture is actually the one that you'll see in the pdf download as well so this is what I chose to go through is an example of lighting effects and that's because it was quite subtle and yet at the same time really changed how we read the picture that's what I love about creating images like this is that you can start with something that's that's really quite boring to look at very neutral very gray very flat and then turn it into something far more dynamic so I'm going to go down here and take a look at my beginning of my photo shop process or if I can figure that out then I will do that okay I'm going to undo some of these layers here so we can start to see exactly how this image was created just by popping these layers off and this was an image that was created specifically to deal with compositing to deal with sword of a levitation aspect um but it was shot very simply all on location she's one leg now and let's see so that brings us to nothingness and not how I want to start this we have a blank canvas and the first thing that I did was I started with this image I started with this image because I knew that I wanted her body to be sort of in a straight line but at a diagonal so I started with her doing a back bend that way I could use this upper body portion and not would remain in the final image and then I started to replace something so I took a blank shot and in that blank shot I was able to replace I also did some cloning in there so I just got rid of her legs because we did not need them in the final picture got rid of my helper over there who is holding some rope and there's one leg so I had her do each leg separately she just put one foot out in front of her it took a picture of that the other leg out in front of her took a picture of that and I continued building this there's that other leg and then I put a rope on so this was the main composite here I leased her body's put together at least she is not quite believably at that someone believably hanging there are being supported by that rope and then I started thinking about flight so my first step is always in an image composite teo put the composite together so I will always always start with okay well she's missing legs so maybe we should fix those missing legs and well ok now we need to make more hair or now we need to make more dress or whatever so I made sure that I had all the elements present because when I start changing light that's going to change everything all at once I don't want to start changing light and then realize oh gosh she's actually missing a leg and I didn't notice that now I have to add it in later than I have to try to get that leg to match all the other lighting that I've just done it makes it really difficult and I'm definitely done that before I have lots of images where I mean I forgot to put a hand on my body once like I just erased it off and then forgot and then many layers down the road had to pop that hand back on and at that point my body was brighter and had more contrast and I had added color to it and then my hand that I popped on just look gray it just looked dull with no contrast and then I had to try to match that so that's not something that we want to do hence the compositing first before worrying about light but the first thing that I did in terms of changing the white was toe add a sky here and so you'll see that pop in there now that's not something that we're going to talk about at great length right now adding a sky we're going to do that leader but I added the sky and that was the first thing that changed the white in this picture so once we have clouds here the rest of the image doesn't make sense if there are clouds here then why is this so bright as though there were you know a sun setting in a clear sky this makes a lot of sense a big bright white sky makes perfect sense because the water is reflecting that not something that I think about a lot it goes into believability it goes into that idea of if you're going to add something to an image that wasn't there then you need to understand the physics of that image that you're adding so when I add in a sky then I'm thinking to myself well if I add this in there's a water element there's a reflective elopement does that name to reflect it even if there's just a field on thinking would we see the pattern of those clouds on the field on thinking things like that because if you don't then that's when the viewer will sort of subconsciously take a look at what you're doing and say something's not right and it's again the kind of thing where people might not even understand what's wrong about it but it all goes back to light and shadow like we talked about yesterday I think that light and shadow you know they're the most important thing especially in compositing and that's why within this sort of building of these layers that you're seeing that's why I ended up adding these clouds to the bottom of the frame as well then in doing that they're now reflected within the water so a little bit of how I did that if I click on do this layer layer five copy this has the clouds that are flipped down below if I click on that then you can see that they're blended with a blending mode which is something we're going to talk about today and the opacity is down so if I take that opacity up then you can see it becomes too much I mean it well not from far away so I can see a monitor far away that looks okay but close up it looks really crazy and so we wouldn't see that much of a reflection in the water it's not very realistic so playing with opacity is really excellent and then also playing with that blending mode you know if I had it on blending mode normal which is essentially just saying this this layer is not going to blend it all it's going to be full opacity if you keep the opacity up so if I were to take this opacity up coming then it would just be normal clouds down below and we don't want that so what I wanted to do in blending this was to create a layer by putting it on blending mode multiply that would stick a little bit better blend itself in not cover up as much in this image and just blend right into the water so again we'll talk about that later blending modes and things like that but for now let's keep playing this image together again and so a lot of these steps now now that we have the light sort of worked out in terms of if we wanted to look overcast if we want it to look bright we know that we wanted to look dull at least through here but I can see that the light in these clouds is coming from this portion on this left hand side of the frame and because of that I wanted to make sure that the subject matched so I looked at my subject was putting this together and I said well the white is sort of hitting her from this area I can see that her hair is lit up whereas this side of her body is not lit up and that was just natural based on how the sun was setting so when I go back to this image of the blank shot I can see that it's brighter over here than it is over here not to mention I can remember shooting it so I know where the sun was setting and because of that I understand the lighting on my subject so I put on the clouds and the clouds are very subtle I think that at this point the light is not entirely motivated yet from these clouds you can see that it's brighter you can see it's darker over here but she has a nice guy golden hue to her hair that is not being reflected in these blue clouds they're blue white in terms of like white they're not that on the yellow cast of them and then there's a blue sky behind that that blue sky is really what's going to take the light and the lighting effects and really mess us up here if we don't make some adjustments because she looks like she's lit from a son that has gone down so we can't have a bright blue sky in the background because that's not really how sky's work so if I continue here we'll start to see some more lighting effects so I made the background a little bit darker there just that strip because I thought that was actually a little bit distracting for me didn't quite blend there and then I took that saturation down so this next adjustment layer is just taking a lot of the color out of the image now this goes into lighting effects because for me color and light sort of go hand in hand in a lot of ways because the color of white is very often what we're adjusting and photo shop it's not usually the color of a specific thing that we're talking about when we talk about adjusting color we're talking about tonality and how much color is affecting the overall image so if that's what we're talking about then we need to pay attention to what is a different color in the image and what is going to take color differently so right here we have yellow red hair bright blue sky and those are two very contrast ing elements in this image I want to make sure that they match and so I am taking the saturation down on everything now if you didn't want to do it like that that would be totally fine you could always just go into photo shop and instead of doing one big huse saturation adjustment layer you could just take down the color of the hair by selectively dis saturating that area or selectively de saturating the blue so that's something that we'll talk about it a little bit um playing with selective color adjustments but I like to do saturate everything to start and the reason being I can now add color back in over everything couple questions maybe just briefly about about that lighting there we had wendy tompkins who said isn't it possible that the viewer made just think that her hair was lit artificially yes and is that a problem for you yes and I was just thinking that too so I'm glad that you said that yeah so people like things aren't officially all the time and that's great but in my work I'm trying to create a very believable image as though we're voyeuristic lee looking into it so I don't want it to look like somebody was there with a light to highlight the subject I want it to look like we just captured this moment and the scene self is doing the work so that's why I'm so interested in blending and creating that natural look but if you want to create that look that ok we don't see a light source we don't know where the light's coming from so it must have been artificial then that's just a very specific choice that one has to make and decide if that's right for the world they're creating so yeah definitely it's totally believable and doable and it's just not the way I work well I'm perfectly that cigarettes very nicely into the next question I want to ask anyway mexico says brooke I understand some realism is good to have but if what you do are amazing fantasy images why do you work so hard on making a believable because light could even come from within a person or something like that yes that's because you talked yesterday about motivated lighting and basically having a source and a reason for all the light can you just talk about that again in this context is definitely an okay so here's my journey with this topic which has been very long I started out with that mindset because I was frustrated with not knowing enough technique so I would do you know create an image the light didn't really make sense and then I would go to my husband say isn't it great doesn't this picture look great and he would say no because the light doesn't make sense and I would say but it's a fantasy picture so it doesn't matter and then he would say but does because you're still creating a believable world so yeah you can have light coming from within somebody and you khun photoshopped that or do it in camera however you want to do it but then that's a choice that you're making and that applies those physics to the world that you're creating so if you're creating a world than you have to know the physics of that world and make those physics known to the viewer and that's my theory on that is that you can create whatever you want you can have whatever rules you want as long as the viewer also understands that now of course this is assuming that we're sharing our work and you know if you're not then who cares and do whatever makes you happy but but for me I find that I get more satisfaction out of having people understand my vision and understand the world that I'm creating rather than trying teo sort of fudge the truth in a way that I don't even understand so as long as I get it then I trust somebody else will and I mean like if in that particular example if the light is coming from within the objects around them should also have a grow as though that is directed from the person it's internal consistence exactly a perfect term you should coin that I've done don't don't don't even think about using that okay we're going to use that term just remember it right now as it applies to everything love thank you let's get you out okay great so let's continue to put some layers on here know what I've done with adding this curves three here is I'm starting to add some color back in in terms of let me just scroll over here now if we focus on this area right here and I toggle this curves three on and off you can see what's happening in the shadows and highlights there isn't a lot of change in the mid tones here because the greys are staying gray but if we take a look at the shadow in her hair here in the highlight here we can see that there's actually some blue popping into the shadows in this area so when I start adding in my white in color and things like that what I'm really working on is trying to figure out in terms of highlight mid tone and shadow and what exactly needs toe happen in each of those spaces with the color so I'm looking at the shadows and I was thinking to myself that may be the shadows could be pulled up a little bit made a little bit brighter but I don't typically like to like to just make the image brighter because of certain part needs to be brighter so instead what I would be inclined to do is add blue to the shadows because blue is going to add some detail into the shadows it's going to make the shadows a little bit brighter it's going to make those shadows a little bit more interesting to look at so if I add that curves three back on I can start to see just a little bit more detail in the shadows and of course you can always just pull the shadows up but if you don't pull the shadows up than adding blue might be a good sort of fairy tale twist in there for the color so let's go ahead and take another fresh look at this image and so it went I'm adding on this next portion this is an example this curves for is an example of sort of ah custom vignette I would say so I've added a custom vignette on just the right hand side of the image meaning that it doesn't affect all four corners so any normal vigna would go ahead and equally affect all edges of your image now in this case I've just drawn it in myself so I've just gone and sort of selected the edges on the outside wherever I want and then I pulled that curve down with an adjustment layer yeah areas and is that something you think about wayne advance when you're shooting to be ableto pull up the light in places and have it not get noisy or great because I run into that problem a lot and just I wondered how you kind of premeditate the definitely so my theory is that when I am shooting I want to make sure that I can see some sort of detail in the shadows even if it's very minimal and then if I can't see any detail that I'll take two exposures of the same scene so I might taken exposure that's you know perfectly exposed for somebody space and then another exposure for her dark hair or something like that and then when I do that I can just composite the dark you know portions in with the light so it's basically just doing more of a custom hdr look because I know you can use photo maddox or is that how you say it votomatics I don't know I've never said that out loud before I don't think but yeah so you could use that to blend your images together and do an hd are look which I know can be difficult if your subject's moving and you've got stuff going on so typically I'll just try to really pay attention to those shadow areas and the other answer to that for me is that I sort of dean always my pictures so much in the end that I don't notice much of a variation in the portions but I had to pull up a lot versus the ones that I didn't so I kind of smooth it out that way so that's my personal work around to that all right so we're going to jump right back into lighting for the composite and so I want to continue to build this image up and talk a little bit about the lighting choices that were made so the next layer that I want to put on his curve layer five this is an adjustment layer and you can't even see right now from that layer mask here exactly what's about to happen so you can see whatever's white in this layer mask that's where the effect is going to be applied whatever's dark it's not going to affect that a portion of the image so we know that something's going to happen over here and just based on what we know about this picture and building this picture it's probably going to get a little bit brighter over here because we're trying to enhance the light in the clouds from that area so when I click that on you can see that it's warming it up and it's making it brighter just through this area here so that was really important to creating this image because now the clouds are much brighter in this portion which motivates the light on the subject so I started playing with color after that just taking the color in a new direction in this case I was adding a little bit of red to the highlights and a little bit of science the shadows so you can imagine in curves let's see if we just open this curve up you can see what's happening here I'm on rgb right now but I'll take it down to the red and so we can see this is the shadow portion of our image is the highlight portion so we can see what happens when we move it up now if I move the mid tones up they're becoming more red but we had them down here in the science portion but then the highlights come back up to read instead of all of it being science so that was one little change that was made in this image now if we continue on I applied a photo filter which is a technique that I think is wonderful for getting a feel for sort of color overall color in your image and so a photo filter if I opened that up you can choose from a whole bunch of filters so we have warming filters cooling filters underwater so you can kind of see what all of them do if I take the density up on that slider there's underwater we have c pia if that's the kind of look you're going for yellow would have been a little green actually orange and so I ended up choosing just the top warming filter for this picture here now if we continue you can see this is another big shift and this is an overall curve shift so you can see right over here in the way or mask it's a white I didn't make any adjustments to it I've very simply just added contrast to the entire image which again you can see here with the curve when I open it so moving on there just a couple more layers and they're mostly just some overall texture stuff like that so we've got a couple texture layers popping on which we'll discuss in a little bit later one more saturation and then the final image there so you can see how the lighting effects are changing as the picture goes on so if I go back to the beginning here there we go that's how it started and then we have this image where yes there is compositing but for me the really big changes how we see the light how we see this image I think that we read him it just from left to right that's just my theory because of how a lot of us read books so if you read that way then you're going to naturally look from the left side to the right side of the image and I liketo have white coming from that side of the image I don't always follow that rule sometimes I have a vignette going around the whole image and I just see this center as the brightest part but it's very rare that will have light streaming in from the right hand side of the picture just because I don't like my eye to be confronted with the dark part of the picture first so if I go into image image rotation and flip canvas horizontal which is something that I highly highly recommend doing just to see the image a little bit differently then suddenly we get a whole different feel for this picture if you were to look at this fresh so let's say that I just minimize that real quick okay take a moment and then let's pop it back up then you're going to look at it from the left to the right at least in most cases so I don't want to see the darkness in the shadows I want to see the white part and so that's why I decided to keep it on angled in this direction

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Logic Checklist
Must Have Shots
Favorite Photoshop Tools
Lighting Effects
Practice Files - Cutting out Hair from Background
Practice Files - Building a Dress
Practice Files - Swapping Hand
Practice Files - Levitation
Adorama Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Logan Fox

I'm so thrilled to have come across this course and to have been introduced to Brooke Shaden. As a bit of background I do photography as a hobby, and always had an appetite to composite my work. It's only after watching this course that I can finally put a name to a craft that I love, that being 'fine art photography'. Through my own personal journey I've read various books, followed online tutorials both paid and free. When I came across this course I did hesitate. I wondered 'is it going to teach me anything new'... 'would the standard of the course be up to scratch'. Well, I can honestly say with hand on heart that this is by far is one of the best courses I've come across to date. As a solo photographer myself I've found it difficult at times to be both photographer and subject at the same time. From the outset what became clear was that Brooke is just like me in this respect which made the course so 'relevant' to what I do. Brooke shows throughout the course what can be achieved with a little planning and some creative approaches to situations that can be difficult to pull off when on your own. She is such a joy to watch and listen to, I loved her sense of humor and great how the audience were involved in some of the shoots. All I can say is, if you're in to photography and interested in compositing your work, you should give this a go, you wont regret it!


I'd like to show my gratitude and gratefulness to Ms Shaden and other wonderful people at CreativeLIVE for sharing your vast knowledge without making a fuss. Not everybody has a super computer and a top-notch camera, not everyone has a studio to work in and not everyone needs to know everything as perfectly as some instructors and professionals do. I, for one, have gained so much insight and have been intrigued by Ms Shaden's present and past lessons, she makes the most difficult and surreal subjects unfold so easily and effortlessly. Ms Shaden has made me believe no matter where I be and no matter what i have, as long as i have a good story to tell, and the right vision, I should be able to handle it with a working camera and any version of Photoshop. Unlike many other instructors who kill us every 5 minutes to buy their flashes or gear and support this or that company and agency, Ms Shaden has spent the whole time teaching and teaching and teaching and I am sorry I cannot be there to thank you in person, but you, Ms Shaden, are awesome and nobody can unawesome you :)


I have been a huge fan of Brooke's work since the beginning of the flickr days. I'm so excited to see her in her element on CL. So many years ago i was so very interested in learning and creating and CL makes this possible now. A lot of my work has been inspired by Brooke's dark yet beautiful work style and i am super inspired to create some using her advice. I cannot wait to delve deeper into this world i have been waiting so long to indulge in it and now i will even more so than i have the last 3 years. Thank you Brooke and CL ! =) Sarina Gito Photography (

Student Work