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Light Painting

Lesson 16 of 19

Photoshop: Layer Opacity

Tim Cooper

Light Painting

Tim Cooper

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Lesson Info

16. Photoshop: Layer Opacity

Lesson Info

Photoshop: Layer Opacity

Let's just talk about what I did here out in the field at Gasworks. What I wanted to do, is I wanted to get a shot of the skyline, so we've talked about having a really nice background, we've talked about accessibility, it's really easy for me to get in here and paint the fence and the grass and the line here. And we've got texture, right? So we've got nice texture in the walk here, we've got texture in the fence line, and so, it's kind of got everything I want for a good light painting scene. Now, what I did is I took several different shots, so in this shot, what I did was I walked along the path and put my flashlight up here and kind of got the barbed wire illuminated. So, I'm feeling that, looking pretty good. Now, for this next shot, what I did was I stood back here and I walked towards the camera. Now, remember, as you're walking towards the camera, I'm holding that flashlight and putting my hand in front of the flashlight so the camera cannot see that light coming towards it. Bu...

t I also need to get a low camera angle, and that's going to give us that texture, and this is one of the more difficult things to do when you're light painting. And then what I did in another exposure, was I went over here off camera right and I painted the grass back, again, at a low camera angle to try to get all of that texture in there. Then in this final photograph here, and we can just actually get rid of these two, then in this final photograph here, I walked around to the camera left and threw my flashlight back on the backside of the fence just to give it some brightness here, so it wasn't pure black like it was in all of these photographs. So now what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna take these four images and, I'm going to, again, open them into Photoshop as layers so that I can change the lighten, the blending mode to lighten, and then start working with it, so let's check it out. Grab those four images and go to Photo, Edit In, Open as Layers in Photoshop. Now, these are all raw files, so it will take a couple of seconds, hopefully not as long as the star trail one. All right. So a couple things to note here, folks. Number one, on this image, I must have paused for too long at the edge of the trail, because you can see a little bit of a ghosting here. That ghosting is occurring because I'm being back lit so if you stand long enough in front of a light subject, you will get ghosting even if you are wearing black. But, liking what I did with the fence there. All right, next one down, painted the pavement. Again, there's ever so slight bit of a shadow here, from where I was standing, but again, I moved enough that it wasn't too bad. But I'm not concerned about it because, guess what? We're gonna use lighten blending mode, which means, if this is brighter, then that's what's gonna show through so it's gonna completely obliterate those shadows. So here is where I painted the grass, and then the final one is where I got in here and painted underneath the fence. With all of the eyeballs on the images, click on the top layer, Shift + click on the bottom layer, and simply let's change this blending mode to Lighten. And bada bing, you got it, folks. That's how easy it can be. So, painted four different exposures here, and, that quickly, I can blend them all together in one image. But the other cool thing is that, I can go back to my opacity again. Maybe I feel this grass is too bright. Well, let me find the grass layer. I'm gonna find the grass layer just by clicking on these eyeballs on and off. Okay, this is the grass layer, so I click the eyeball off and that goes back to darkness. So I can click on that layer, and change that opacity, if I wanted the grass a little darker, or if I want it a little brighter. I could say, ah, you know, maybe I painted too much brightness on the... On the walkway here, so I'll find the walkway shot. All right. I'll click here, it's not that one, it's not that one, it's that one. Okay, so I'm gonna click on that layer to activate that layer, and pull that opacity back a little bit just to darken it. And so, in this way, you can very much go through each layer, change its opacity, and even mask things out, to make alterations. So for example, let's find the image that, let's find the image that painted this side because I feel it's a little too bright for my taste here. I like the fact that I painted it, but I don't want it so much on the left here, but more towards the center, so. Oh, it's that one right there. It's the bottom layer, I guessed straight away. So this is the culprit, all right? I could just take that off, but the other way we can go about this is doing something called selections and masks and I'm just gonna do this real quick for you guys and then we'll come back and flesh it out as a full-on lesson, but basically what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna make a mask on that layer, and then, grab a paintbrush and paint with black and wherever I paint with black, I'm just simply removing that from the mix. And, much like we did back in Lightroom where we painted a lower opacity on our adjustment brush, I could lower the opacity and not completely obliterate it but just kind of get rid of it and downplay it. So I'm getting somewhat of this fading off or slightly brighter as I go back, and now it's darker, brighter, and brighter. This is brighter going back, this is brighter going back, so I'm bringing all the attention to this area in the rear.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Shooting at night can create dynamic landscapes or portraits through long exposures. By using a wide range of tools, you can add light to your night photographs to create dynamic highlights or unique shapes. Painting with light opens a door into night photography that will keep you out until the wee hours of the morning. Tim Cooper is the author of The Magic of Painting with Light and in this course, you’ll learn:

  • The basics of light painting from accessories to camera considerations 
  • How to use test shots to capture your focus and exposure in the dark 
  • How to post-process your night images in Lightroom 
  • How to use layer stacking in Photoshop to build up light in your photographs  

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Tim's Lightroom Presets

Tim's Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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DiDi Hendley

The BEST class ever! Learned so much--Tim is a great instructor. I highly recommend to the creative photog looking to expand his/her arsenal of tools, talents and products. Appreciated the patience and thoroughness that Tim offered students. Great pacing and information. I can see how I can very easily take his instruction out at night and produce something. I also appreciate that this session demonstrated images that weren't created in total darkness.

Gene Chamberlin

Tim is an outstanding teacher - I love his style, thorough and basic without being too elementary or condescending. I will be looking for other classes by Tim in the future. I'm am excited to apply the things I have learned from Tim and create my own style from the tools he has given. I never would have give much thought to light painting in the past. I have already notice a change in the way I scout my shots, now that I have added light painting into my tool box. Thanks for sharing your experience with the world Tim. Gene

Andrew Gow

Really enjoyable course. Clear instruction and surprisingly easy to put what I learnt into practice, which I did for the first time last night. This is also my first exposure to Photoshop, which initially put me off buying the course. However, Tim is a great instructor and explains his approach very clearly, so as well as an introduction to light painting it's a great introduction to what Photoshop can do.