Creating Soft Back Lighting Using Photoshop

In this lesson you will learn how to add soft back lighting to your portraits using Photoshop. I recently used this effect on a new portrait called Autumn Apple Orchard that was created for our Digital Creation’s Club.



Here are the steps that I used to create this effect.

Step 1. Once you have your file open in Photoshop, you will want to create a new layer from the drop down menu.

Go to Layer===>New===>Layer

Step 2. Go to the Polygonal Lasso Tool and select it. If it’s not currently visible you may need to right click on the Lasso Tool and select the Polygonal Lasso tool from the slide out menu.


Step 3. Here’s were we will create the shape of the directional lighting. Choose an area that will be the top direction of your light source. In this case I used the right corner. Then click once and then move to your next points until you have completed your shape.


Note: Once you add your last point you will see the marching ants of your shape. This is when you know you have selected it properly and it can be identified.


Step 4. Go to the paint bucket tool


Step 5. Choose a color that may look good for your back lighting. Don’t worry, this can be changed after to any color you would like. But, for now just pick something close.


Step 6. Take the paint bucket tool that you’ve selected and click inside of the shape. This should fill the entire area with the color you selected.


Step 7. Once the color is filled, you can deselect your selection.


Step 8. Go to Filter===>Blur===>Gaussian Blur


Step 9. Bring the radius up to 200 pixels. This will spread the light out and make it really soft.


Step 10. Double click on the layer twice and name it “Back Light Right” or whatever you want. This will keep all your layers labeled when further editing.


Step 11. Go to Layer===>Layer Style===>Color Overlay

This will allow you to adjust your lighting layer to any color you wish. You should play around with this to get something that looks natural.


Step 12. Usually Photoshop defaults to red. You will need to click inside the color square to change the color.



Step 13. When you are satisfied with the color, click OK. You can always come back into your adjustments layer and change this to a different color.


Step 14. If you are adding more than one directional light, you can just duplicate the layer you created earlier.



Step 15. You may need to flip the direction of the light.

Go to Edit===>Transform===>Flip Horizontally


Step 16. Click and drag to the position that best fits your image. In this case I dragged it all the way to the left.


Note: You may need to rotate the layer a little to further position the light.

Go to Edit===>Transform===>Rotate

Click Apply when you are happy with the direction.


Step 17. If you have a foreground object or even your subject, you will need to bring them to the front. To do this you can drag that layer to the top of your layer’s panel. This will keep the lighting in the back were we intended it to be used.


Note: If  the lighting is to strong for your image, you can use the opacity sliders to adjust the strength of your effect.


Here’s the finished picture that I used for this example. We created it for our Digital Creation’s Club. It’s called “Autumn Apple Orchard“.


I hope this lesson has helped and you have fun using tit in your Digital Photography. You should bookmark this page to refer back to the lesson from time to time.

Feel Free to share this with anyone else that may find it useful.

If you are interested in learning more about using Digital Creation’s and these effects…Click Here!

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