The Lightroom Develop System
If you want to download the source file to follow along, get it from here.
Today we’re going to cover how to switch on streetlights in Lightroom. This is particularly useful when you have a photo taken in daylight, and you want to simulate a night time effect. I have produced a number of free brushes and presets for use in Lightroom that take the guesswork out of producing this effect, and help you jump into using it straight away. You can download the totally free Lightroom Develop System, designed for landscape and cityscape photographers and containing over one thousand presets and brushes, from lapseoftheshutter.com.
This photo of the Torii gates in the Fushi Inari shrine in Kyoto was taken in the daytime. I’ve already applied some presets from the Lightroom Develop System to shift the colours back to the deep red that the gates are actually painted.
Now we’re ready to switch on the light. The trick to making this look real is to start with the point source of light, adding a tightly focused bright beam, and working out to create the light spill using progressively larger, softer and less powerful gradients. I tend to use the circular gradient filter to create streetlights as it’s regularity makes it much easier to create a realistic effect, although you can use the adjustment brush if you prefer.
So, we first need to create the point source of light. Draw a small circular gradient that approximately covers the light source, then either choose the turn on streetlight I brush, or manually push the temperature up to +100, exposure to +4, highlights to +100 and whites to +50. You may need to adapt the feathering on the mask depending on the size of the light source. You’ll want the borders of the light to be soft.
Depending on what works best for the photo, you can then create one, two or more increasingly larger and softer circles of light to simulate light falloff. Draw a bigger circular gradient as close as you can get to the first, increase the feathering and change the brush to Turn on Streetlights II. This reduces the effects of the previous brush by half. If you wanted to create another, bigger circular gradient over the top of this one, you should reduce the active sliders by half again, and so on.
Once you’re happy with how the light source looks, you now need to add light spillage to the walls and floors to complete the effect. Use the higher numbered Turn on Streetlight brushes, with high feathering, or create your own brushes by playing around with the temperature, exposure and highlights sliders, remembering to reduce all the three and increase the feathering the further you are from the light source. Create only as many as you need to make the light look realistic. If you want to get really pixel-peepy, you can use a really soft, large adjustment brush to perfect the effect.
You now have one finished photo.
As a quick bonus, if you want to enhance real streetlights, there’s no need to paint over them. There are a number of streetlight enhancement and streetlight glow presets as part of the Lightroom Develop System. They work by modifying the HSL sliders. For example, if you have the reflected glow of streetlights in low clouds, you can increase the purple hue, saturation and luminance to boost it, or reduce those sliders to remove it. If you want to boost streetlights, then increase the red, orange and yellow sliders for saturation and luminance. And with those few simple changes you can go from this to this.
This tutorial is part of a more in-depth text and video tutorial that you can find on lapseoftheshutter.com, called ‘How to Add Colour Depth through White Balance’, which is itself part of the free Landscapes Masterclass course. Take a look at lapseoftheshutter.com for more, where you can also download my free resources: the Lightroom Develop System, the Photoshop Landscape Colour Grades and the Photoshop Colour Control ActionPack.