Night Photography Post Processing Techniques


Lesson Info

Light Painting: Masking In Photoshop

The layer that ended up on top was indeed the layer that I wanted the sky out of. But we're gonna need to mask this image out because I don't want this darker part showing through. Now I could just use a lighten blending mode on all three of these but that may mess up my sky. So what I'll do is let's see I think quick select tool will work just fine for this. I'm gonna raise up the size of my quick select tool using my right bracket key, click in there, click in there and my sky is selected. So now what I can do is click on this layer, create my add a mask and viola there it is, you can see the white parts of the mask are allowing this more bluish sky to come in, and it's showing me this layer underneath. But now, I want all of these layers, all of the light from both of these layers to come through. So what I'll do is click on this layer and change it to you guessed it lighten blending mode. And now we have exactly what I was looking for, the blue in the sky and the warmer colors of u...

nderneath the bridge. Okay but we've got a few problems here. Number one, I wanna ultimately guide your light you eye down to this area in here. So the fact that this is so bright up here, compared to here is kind of the reverse of what it is that I want. So what I'm gonna do is I'm going to click on this layer on the top, on the middle layer, and create a mask. Now, if I start painting some black on this layer what's gonna happen is it's going to darken down the area that I'm painting black because it's actually seeing through to this layer below it. So, by painting black here. Grab my paint brush. By painting black here I'm actually punching a hole into this and I'm seeing down into this area. So that's what's happening. So let's make it a little bit better, and make my image rather small, grab my paint brush by tapping bracket key to make my brush very very large. And then shift left bracket to soften my brush all the way up. Now, instead of painting with 100% black which would just completely obliterate that whole area there, what I'll do is I'll go up to a lower opacity, of maybe say 50%, and just kinda start painting in ever so slightly and see what that looks like. Remember, I'm using a very soft brush, so I can just use the edge, like that. Maybe one more shot, I'm just hitting Command+Z to undo what I last did, just so I can kind of get that feeling. And I think that's pretty good, that darkens it down a little bit, I might go one more time, there we go. Now, in this case I felt like that last click that I did was a bit too much. So I'm gonna go up to edit, fade brush tool, and this will only work of course if you do it exactly right after you did the last move, because if you do anything else like like on mask or go do something this edit fade is gone. But if I go all the way down to zero it's like I didn't paint at all, all the way to 100, it's like I painted completely. But now this gives you a nice little slider, where you can kind of find that individual area, or that perfect area to blend right in together. So, I click okay. And you can see our mask is just a really nice soft gray blending into white which allows us those tones to come through. Now, let's see what else we're gonna do here. I think the outside of the edges of this bridge should also be a little darker, here and here. I tried to illuminate as best I can up in here with the flashlight but that was pretty far away from my flashlight so I wasn't able to do it perfectly. So, that all of course is on this layer in here. So if I want to paint some of this layer away I'm gonna need to grab the mask on that layer. And wherever I paint the black will darken that area down because it's now going to be seeing the bridge actually above it. So, make that a little there, and soften that edge in there. Soften that edge in there. That's actually looking a little fake now that I see it. I think I'll leave it the way it is. Perhaps it's this bright area back here that's bothering me. And that gray area is on this bottom layer. Alright so if I was to click on this mask in the bottom layer where that bright area is, let's see if I can't darken that down a little bit. Ah that's better, that's kinda what I wanted to do. Alright now, a few problems left. Our bridge is kinda crooked. And our road is going off at an angle. And that's not uncommon, I tried to align myself as perfectly as I could in the center of the bridge. But I was just a little bit off. So, in this case what I wanna do is I wanna transform the bridge to even it out, and fix the street here the road in front of me so it's perfectly level and not going at an angle. But I can't really do that to each individual layer. I mean I could but it would be problematic. The easiest way is to do something I just showed you a couple minutes ago, which is select all of these layers, and we're gonna merge them together, make a copy, and put that on top, and that would be a complete layer of it's own on the top. So, select the top one, shift click on the bottom one, and then we're gonna hit Command Shift Alt and E. Command Shift Alt and E and that puts everything right on this layer right here. Now again I can take these other eyeballs off, and it doesn't matter because this is in itself a blend of all three layers. Now when I transform I only have to do one layer. So, I'm gonna click on that layer and choose edit, transform free transform, and now when I free transform I can control which transform aspect I'm using by right clicking inside the box. And in this case I want to use skew. Skew means that I can take one corner and move it at a time, like that or like that. Let me escape out of that. Get back into transform, and get back into free transform I just hit Command T. Perspective, you grab one end and both ends move. Which sometimes you need. Skew is just one edge at a time. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna grab this bottom edge and pull it down. And that should make that road a little bit more straight. And I just grab up in that ruler, by clicking up in the ruler and dragging down and that kinda gives me a guide. And that can leave that guide on there if I want, but I just wanna get an idea if it was relatively straight and I think it is. So, now to commit to that layer I'm going to hit the check mark. Alright, I may have actually gone too much, but we'll see. Right now there's a little dark edge at the bottom that needs to be cropped down, and so let's see what it looks like once that's gone. I'll just pull that just a touch. And I think that that dark edge was kinda messing with our eyes, that looks pretty straight. Now, if it's gotta be absolutely perfect what I recommend to you guys is hitting Command R, and Command R will pull out your rulers, and you can grab, and you can grab a guide and pull it down and place it, and grab another one and pull it down and place it. And this way you can put guides all over your image if you're trying to get it perfectly straight up and down. And in this case I think we're doing pretty good. But now if I hit Command T then I can make any change that I needed to and use the guides at the same time. But I think we did a good job the first time, so I will just escape out of that and I will clear my guides by hitting Command semicolon. Or that's actually hide and show your guides, Command Semicolon. Alright, now while I'm liking this I feel like the bottom is still a little bit too bright. The road of course was illuminated by the car's trails going by and that's just too bright for my taste. So, what I'll do is let's just make a rough selection of that area with that marquis tool, let's do that again. And when you have a selection active, and you create an adjustment layer you get that selection turned into a mask and I can darken down the bottom of that road. And I don't want a hard edge in there, and I kinda hid it in the white, the edge of the selection, but I don't wanna take any chances, so what I'm gonna do is I'm going to click on this mask and give it a bit of a feather just in case. And you can always check your mask by Alt clicking on it. Or you can also hit your backslash key and that shows you a sort of a red overlay. Alright, so I think that blur worked well. Now notice because I used curves, and this happens a lot when you're increasing contrast in the scene, or darkening down using curves, you get a sort of a saturation that wasn't there in the first place. So, increasing the contrast will increase color saturation. So, I want the darkness of this but I don't want that increased color saturation because it's not matched around the rest of the image, the rest of the image is a little bit more muted in color. So, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna change the blending mode of that over to something called luminosity. And that commands the curve to not adjust the saturation but only adjust the darkness and lightness. And you can see that that saturation has gone away somewhat, so before and then after. Now, because I still don't like that much saturation in there. I'm gonna steal this mask and re-use it. And that is just by Command clicking on the mask itself, that reloads this selection, and then once the selection is active I will go down and create a new saturation layer, and I will pull back on that saturation a little bit until it's just a little bit on the yellow side. And I think that feels a little bit better to my eye. Maybe we can add a little bit more yellow in there now. But somewhere in that looks good to me. So for this image, I wanted to blend several different light painting exposures together, and I did so by using the light and blending mode. And then what I was able to do was work on the individual images themselves, and create their own mask, so that I could lighten and darken and choose, add some areas and play down other areas, and again this is all part of crafting the image so that you can get this more three dimensional image.

Taking photos at night presents some obvious problems. Shadows, under exposure, blurring and lack of light can all conspire to ruin a perfectly lovely scene. But good Photoshop® and Lightroom® post-processing techniques can take a deeply flawed night image and give it new life. In this class, night photography expert Tim Cooper will show you how to deal with common night photography issues through image deconstruction, Blend Modes, layers and masks, color fill layers and other retouching tools.



  • Truly great tips on taking nigh photography.