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Hey guys and gals, new themed posts coming to the blog this year! Free Tutorial Friday. I’m sure others have used such clever alliteration on other blogs before, so that’s nothing new. Hopefully though, i can show you some cool stuff to make your photos pop! I’m going to make these tutorials as all encompassing as I can from the standard dodge and burn technique to the crazy artistic sunbeams like I am doing today. They will vary as we go, but hopefully you will be able to work them into your workflow and it will make us all better at this!

Original HDR image

Original HDR image

Here is the image I had made from 3 exposures of my neighbors tree. When I took the photo, I had what I ended up with at the end of this tutorial today in mind, but at the time I processed this image, I didnt know exactly how to achieve what I had in my head when I got back to Photoshop.

I wanted to achieve this –

Final image w/ the sunbeams I wanted!

Final image w/ the sunbeams I wanted!

So how do we get from point A to point B? Its a quick highlight selection, a radial blur, a filter to add some color, some dodging and burning, and some color correction –

Video tutorial is posted at the bottom of this post.. or here

Step 1: select the highlights and get them on their own layer

With your image open and selected, go to Select>Color Range, and choose highlights from the drop down menu. Set your fuzziness to around 50% and your Range around 190 (specific for each image, but that’s what I used for this image. Then click “Ok”

Hit Control or Command C to copy the selection, add a new layer. Change that layer name to “Sunbeams” or something that sounds cooler if you can think of it.

 Step 2. Radial Blur

With the “Sunbeams” layer selected – go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Slam the amount slider all the way to the right, to 100, chose zoom for the blur method, then leave the selection for the quality on Good. In the blur center window, you want to center the cross hairs on the sun. This can be tricky. I like to add guides, but clicking on the ruler a the top of the image and dragging down and clicking on the ruler on the left and dragging right so my guides make a cross hair centered on my sun. if the rulers are not visible on your image press control or command R. Once the cross hairs of my guides are centered on the sun, i can try and match the cross hairs in the blur center window to match my guides. Then hit “Ok”. Unless you are awesome, which you probably are, your blur center is a little off. No problem. Click control or command Z to undo the blur, open the blur menu again and go to radial blur. All your settings are still there and the blur center is where you left it. Now adjust it as needed to make sure its centered on the sun. Repeat this as necessary until you get the centering just right.

If you turn off the background layer, it should look something like this –

Radial blur - Zoom

Radial blur – Zoom

You could stop right here, combine layers, and call it a day, or you can push on and really make it standout!

Step 3: Add some color and depth

This step is optional, but worked well for this image. I use NIK software alot in my post processing, so opted to use their Analog EFX Pro 2 filters. I chose Classic Camera 5 in the presets and hit ok – it added some great color and “thickness” to my sun beams. After applying the filter I changed the blend mode to “lighten” because some of the blue’s were a little too overpowering. The result is below –

3 - analog effects pro 2 - classic camera 5

NIK Anaolg EFX Pro 2: Classic Camera 5

Here is where are now w/ the background turned on, and the blending mode for the fliter set to lighten –

Sunbeams taking shape

Sunbeams taking shape

The addition of the NIK filter layer just allowed some glow from the sun to penetrate the leaves of the tree, without this filter the tree leaves wouldn’t be glowing or as “Foggy” as they appear. Your choice!

Step 4 – Sharpening

There are about 754 ways to sharpen your image in Photoshop. I really like NIK sharpener Pro 3. I used that filter to add some texture to the sun beams and bring back a little contrast and detail to some the leaves in the upper right and upper left corner where the beams weren’t as prominent. You can use an Unsharp Mask, and High Pass Filter, Sharpener tool.. you get the idea. The thought is to make it a little more realistic, a little less cloudy and “glow-y”

5 - Sharpener pro 3

Sharpener Pro 3

 Step 5 – Color Corrections

Looking at our image at this point you may want to make some color adjustments. Using the Hue Saturation adjustment layer, I wanted to tone down those cyans around the perimeter of the image and also clean up some of the yellow/green you see in the middle right of the image. I desaturated the cyan’s and and lightened them slightly, and changed the hue of the yellows to make them a little more red, then masked them in with a layer mask.

6 - Cyan color correction

Cyan Color Correction

Final image w/ the sunbeams I wanted!

Yellow color correction


Step 6 – Dodge and Burn

Finally, for this image I made a new layer, hit “Shift+F5” to fill it and chose 50% gray. I then changed the blend mode to “overlay”. I do this so when I dodge and burn, it only affects tone and not color. Then I chose the burn tool and went over the tree branches and trunks that are in the bottom right quadrant. I wanted to make sure they were good and dark, as there is no way you were making out any details in them staring into the sun like that.

This is the tree in our neighbors yard, and I used this image for a photoshop tutorial on making sun beams! If you haven't checked it out yet - www.tylergloverphotography.wordpress.comClick the image about to jump over to smug mug!

If you found this tutorial useful, please leave a comment and let me know if you you use it, and leave me a link to your picture!

If that was too much reading.. here’s the video!