Light Painting: Post Editing Tips

Hey guys, it’s been a long break for me and I know the blog is pretty bare at the moment. But my exams are over and I hope to start posting regularly once again!

So I see that online there are a LOT of tutorials of home to do light painting; I think it’s a wonderful effect and you can read a couple of great tutorials of how to do it here, here and here. This tutorial is for intermediates and does assume some prior photo editing knowledge.

Now light painting is a fantastic medium to create stellar images, usually people like to write their name or super-impose something like a flower; personally I love the abstract patterns that can come from swirling your light around in the dark. However this is inconsequential to this tutorial, as there are plenty of resources to create your photo I’d like to show you the process I went through to get my shots looking a little more polished.

I am using a free programme called Paint.net which is a fantastic free alternative to Photoshop. The interface is very similar and only lacks a few of Photoshop features (Though as Photoshop advances, Paint.net does not). I strongly urge you to download this programme here.

Step 1. So you have your shots, but you might have som stuff in the background obscuring it, in this case, there is a computer screen. I am going to clone stamp it out, if you aren’t familiar with clone stamping I suggest you read this tutorial here. In light painting if you’re just looking to erase (which I recommend) look to set your anchor point in a dark patch that is near the object you want to get rid of, there may be darker patches on the photo but there will always be subtle balance differences and choosing an area near your object just makes it easier. See the photos below for a step by step example.

(If you’re worried that you can see the area affected by the clone stamp, it’s ok we’ll be addressing that next)

Step 2. Now we are going to balance our light and dark areas in the best possible way. There are two methods in doing this, you can use the brightness and contrast adjuster, or you can use the luminosity adjuster on the curves tool. I actually use both,because I find the curves tool better for fine tuning whilst the B+C effect is better in more general usage. You are only going to want to make very subtle changes so that they don’t look typically ‘edited’, this is a common problem among editors. There is an old saying that goes ‘If you can’t tell what the editor did, they did a great job’. I can’t really tell you how to adjust your own photo, but I will just show you the settings I used for my own.

Step 3. Now this photo is already looking pretty nice, I was lucky in this shot that the trail came out a nice gold, but your colours always won’t always pop this well and this photo can still use a little colour adjusting. You can do this by boosting the saturation slightly, however my prefered method is to use the curves tool again, by just booting the colours slightly you can really make those colours stand out, which just look great against the black background. For this shot I’m going to boost the yellows, but like the previous step have an experiment and see what looks best for you, I’ll post an example with some vivid greens that look great with an approximation of the settings I used.

You should be at a point where you are happy with your shots, personally to just give them that final, professional feel, I like to trim about 5 pixels or so off the top and bottom but that’s completely up to you. Here are two full resolution examples of my own shots, please leave a comment with any questions or links to your own light painting photo gallery.

[CLICK HERE TO VISIT MY FLICKR PAGE]

Peace,

MattĀ  :)

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