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How To Create Sun Rays for Dramatic Portraits in Adobe Photoshop

Learn how to create a sun ray effect in Adobe Photoshop in this brief but effective tutorial.

As photographers, we are — or at least ought to be — obsessed with light. We love those golden hours that bookend our days, we love the sun breaking through storm clouds, and we love the dappled light in dense forests. Light is often what separates a great photograph from an average one, whether we have control over the light source or not. 

When it comes to portraiture, the same rules apply. Yes, you can make beautiful portraits with only natural light, but when you master strobes too, you open up far more options. However, what if you took an image without thinking of using high contrast, dramatic lighting, mimicking the effects of sun rays? In this video by PiXimperfect, you can learn how to do it quickly in Photoshop.

While this video is pitched at portrait photographers, this sort of effect is highly valuable in other genres too. I have used a less powerful version of this in my product photography from time to time to help guide the eye to where I want it to be in the image. Generally, if that's the look I am going for and I want high contrast, I will do it in-camera with carefully arranged lighting, but to accentuate the focal point of my image, I will sometimes do a similar method to this video, albeit at an opacity of about 10% comparatively! 

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Never Mind's picture

Won't the model be pissed because he replaced her beautiful eyes? ;-)

Dave Dundas's picture

Not every image is about the model, sometimes they're just there to be a vehicle to sell product. You can take more liberty with "reality" on those kind of images.