The Lighting Effects Filter - Adobe Photoshop

The Lighting Effects filter is fun to explore when you’re getting started, and can do a surprising job of emulating different types of light. The best way to get a feel for it is to do a simple and subtle effect.

Now say you want to bring attention to the far bar and wall in Figure below by making it seem as though it is a bit darker outside .you want the recessed lights shining down, illuminating the bar. One click of the Lighting Effects filter can help.

This is a fairly flat and uninteresting photo of a wine-tasting area

  1. Open Wine.tga, which is shown in Figure above.
  2. Duplicate the image layer by pressing Command+J(Win: Ctrl+J).
  3. Go to Filter > Render >Lighting Effects.
  4. In the dialog box, change the style to Crossing Down.
  5. Move the lights by clicking the white circles in the preview.
  6. I also brought down the intensity of one spot light. You can see an approximation in the preview window as you make changes. You can compare your settings to mine in Figure below.

    The Lighting Effects dialog box settings for each of the two spotlights

  7. Click OK when you like the settings.
  8. The Lighting Effects filter gives a good result, but has put a dark shadow over the light bulb in the hanging fixture on the right. Now you must manually touch up the hanging fixture on the right to bring the light back in.

  9. Use the Eraser tool to reveal the background original image.
    • Erase the lightbulb. You see the brighter lightbulb in the lower original layer come through.
    • Bring down the opacity and softly erase around the light. It should look like the area is brightened by the light.

Now take a look at your results, the likes of which are in Figure below. Your eye is drawn to the bar, and for a quick pass this works rather well.

The before and after images—a subtle but effective change

This is definitely one of those things that you just have to play with to familiarize yourself with the possibilities. It’s also a prime candidate for one of my exploded views! Check it out in Figure below.

The exploded view of the Lighting Effects dialog box.

The Lighting Effects filter comes with 17 presets. Table below shows an example of each of them at their default settings.

Lighting Effects Filter Style Presets

You can always choose from three types of lights:

  • Directional light. Floods the entire image with an even, unidirectional light, much like the sun. This light is represented by a line whose angle denotes the direction of the light, and the length denotes the distance, or height, of the light. (A short line gives a brighter effect and a long line gives a dimmer effect.)
  • Omni light. This light casts equally in all directions from the center. It is like holding a small light bulb over your image. Increasing and decreasing the size of the Omni light is like moving the light bulb closer or farther away.
  • Spotlight. Probably the most used form of light, this light creates an elliptical beam of light with a hot spot that fades out in the distance, much like a true spotlight(hence its name). The line within the ellipse denotes the angle, and the ellipse defines the spread.

Again, the best way to learn what this filter can do for you is play with it. The next shot gives you a more dramatic use of the Lighting Effects filter. The advanced day for night shot that follows after the quickand- dirty version creates the shot without using the Lighting Effects filter at all.


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