How to Apply Lighting Effects in Adobe Photoshop

When montaging photos, the lighting in different images can be mismatched, so that it becomes obvious in the composited images that the light is coming from two separate and incongruous sources. The Lighting Effects filter in Photoshop allows you to apply lighting sources and types for creative effect or to harmonize the lighting in different image elements.

This feature is similar in Adobe Photoshop CS6 and CC versions.

  1. The following screen shot shows layered images along with the Layers Panel.
    Start Image

  2. To make changes, go to Filter > Render > Lighting Effects.
    Lighting Effects in Filter Menu

  3. A gallery-like interface opens with tools and controls for lighting effects.
    • Options Bar: Add light sources, control the preview, cancel or finalize the filter.
    • Properties Panel: Define settings for selected light.
    • Lights Panel: Lists the light sources for selected layer with controls to select or hide specific lights.

    Lighting Effects Interface

  4. There are three types of light sources, which can be selected in the Properties Panel:
    • Point: Light shines from all directions, like with a light bulb.
    • Spot: An elliptical beam of light is cast, such as from a flashlight.
    • Infinite: Light shines from a single source a long distance away, such as with the sun.

    Light Source Menu

  5. For this example, I've chosen Infinite, which produces a different control widget. Click and drag at the small, round source handle to change the angle of the light. Click and drag on the Intensity ring to create brighter or dimmer lighting.
    Infinite Example

  6. Additional light sources can be added by clicking the Add Spot, Add Point, or Add Infinite buttons in the Options Bar. They will then appear in the Lights Panel.
    Add Light Buttons

  7. Different light source types show different widgets, with different controls. Watch the tool tips closely when hovering over different parts in the widget. The spot light widget has controls for scaling, rotating, and changing the hotspot size, as well as moving and adjusting the intensity.
    Spot Light Control Widget

  8. In the Lights Panel, note the Visibility buttons to the left of each lighting effect and the Delete icon at the lower right.
    Lights Panel

  9. Experiment with adding and adjusting light sources. Click OK when you are satisfied with the lighting effect.
Author: Kate Cahill

Kate Cahill is a graphic designer, writer, and creative director who has developed content for print and web. As creative director, she has produced award-winning work for agencies focused on the pharmaceutical and health and beauty aid industries. She has also served as production manager, with responsibility for the successful fulfillment of long-run print contracts. Kate has been delivering training for Webucator clients since 2010. Her enthusiasm for cutting-edge technology, combined with hands-on practical experience, brings an added benefit to her classes. Kate teaches real-world techniques and integration of Adobe software, as well as Microsoft PowerPoint, to produce a fully developed and cohesive brand identity.

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