Painting with Light



One of the things that is great about digital photography is the ability to quickly and easily make adjustments to your image in post-processing.  Sometimes the difference between an OK image and great image is just a few subtle brush strokes to adjust the highlights or shadows.  These subtle adjustments are often all it takes to change the mood in an image and make it image look great.  Of course, no amount of Photoshop wizardry in the world can fix an image that is bad right out of the chute (garbage in, garbage out), so please take the time to make you get a proper exposure and a good photograph to begin with.


A few weeks ago my friend Marty Lerario, who has been a commercial photographer since 1978, showed me a very quick and easy technique to adjust the shadows and highlights of an image very quickly and easily.  This method depends on two simple adjustment layers and takes only a few seconds to perform.  It is very similar to the various “Paint with Light” actions that are out there on the ‘web, but in MY Photoshop actions palette, it is simply called “The Marty Fix”.  I think this gives a much more subtle and natural effect than using the Shadows/Highlights tool.


Remember, this is a very subtle effect!


1.  Make two blank duplicate layers

2.  Change the middle layer’s name to “Paint Black to Darken” or whatever you want to call it.

3.  Change the top layer’s name to “Paint White to Brighten” or whatever you want to call it.

4.  Change both new layers’ blend mode to OVERLAY, and set both layers’ opacity to 15%.

5.  Select the brush tool (100% opacity, 0% hardness) and press “D” to change the foreground/background colors to black/white.  The reason is use a 100% opacity brush and change the opacity on the layer itself is it gives you the ability to make duplicate brush strokes without having to worry about the overlapping showing through.

6.  On the Darken layer, paint with black over parts of the image that appear too bright and paint with white on the Brighten layer on parts of the image that appear too dark.

7.  THAT’S IT!  But… if you want to fine tune the image a bit, you can adjust the layer opacity to intensify/lessen the effect on each layer.

8.  You can also add additional blank overlay layers of varying opacity if need and use layer masks and paint on the masks to clean up areas when you might have made mistakes.

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