Blending Light Painting Photos in Photoshop

 Usually when doing light painting workshops, I have several people with torches all lighting the scene at the same time so we catch everything in one frame which you can view there and then on the night. 

But when you are alone, or in small groups, often it isn’t possible because you just cannot get around the subject and surroundings quick enough for one exposure, and also you are almost inevitably going to have some accidental lighting “blobs” here and there as you move around. 

So, in this tutorial I have a series of photographs I photographed alone in the Peak District. 

I used an intervalometer which is built into my camera (you can buy them for cameras which don’t have them inbuilt on Ebay and Amazon), it was set to 15 seconds at ISO 200 with an f-stop of F8 so I could get most things in the foreground Sharp. 

However, the first photograph I took was for the sky, making it as bright as possible so I could get at least a few stars in the image – I think the ISO was upped to around 3200 for this. 

Next I started the intervalometer taking photos (set it to keep going indefinitely and switch it off when you get back to the camera) and walked around the area with my torch painting things as I went along.  This gave me around ten photographs, all with different things lit. 

The tutorial takes it from that point –  starting with the raw files in Lightroom and talks you how to use Photoshop, layers and layer masks to show and hide the bits you want and get the final result.

Media City and Salford Quays

Salford Quays Architecture

If anyone wants to learn about shooting architecture “up north”, I can think of not better place than Media City at Salford Quays.

This trip was a 1-2-1 with a fellow professional photographer who shoots gigs for a living – he wanted to spend an evening learning about architecture and tilt-shift lenses. So we met around 4:30 and worked through till well after sunset, taking in all kinds of views and angles.

Kit Used on this trip

Click on any of these pictures to learn more or purchase

Canon 5D Mark 4

Canon 70-200 F2.8 IS

 

Canon 17mm TSe

Canon 90mm TS

Manfrotto 055 Tripod

 

 

Waiting for the sunset

So to start we captured these flats – I’ve shot them many times before, but never with the Canon 17mm TSe lens. To get them in I had to take 2 portrait photos – one shifted low, the other high – and stitch them together to get this final shot.

It’s a far more architectural look than the stretched versions I did with the 17-40 back in 2006!

Not quite a sunset

 

As it got darker, we didn’t really get the dreamy orange sky, but a nice pattern in the clouds formed over the BBC buildings.

 

 

Looking the other way, east towards Old Trafford, was a bit more ominous. Here we used the railings to give a dramatic lead into the shot.

 

 

As the sun was going down, the red light in the imperial war museum came on, so grabbed this shot with the 70-200.

 

The Lift Bridge

Back in the 2000’s this was the main feature and still a great thing to shoot. It’s a lift bridge, the deck’s pretty long, 100 yards maybe, and lit beautifully all the way across.

We got a few shots of it – this one is a pano of 2 shifted shots, taken later on when the sky had darkened.

 

 

This is a HDR pano – so 6 photos in total, blended to 2 HDR photos – then the 2 HDR photos blended to a panoramic. It meant the bright sky could be retained along with detail in the deck and structure.

 

 

This is right at the side of the bridge, a shift panoramic of 3 vertical photos. It’s REALLY wide!

 

Imperial War Museum

This is a really boiring building in dull light, but after dark, it takes on a totally different feel. The lighting is cool, almost blue, with the red “eye” peering out at you.

This is 2 shots blended to a panoramic – taking in the little lights on the steps. A nice touch.

 

 

You get a great reflected view of it from across the water, outside the Blue Peter studio.

 

 

This is a 90mm Tilt Shift lens photo – with this I was using tilt to increase depth of field, so tilted towards the building. It is a bit fiddly to do, but the lot does seem quite sharp!

 

 

This is the opposite effect – with the tilt away from the building to make the near parts more blurry than you’d get from most lenses.

 

Classic Reflections

The main draw of this location has to be the reflections after dark – colours and shapes in the architecture double up when you have water, and there are acres of the stuff here.

This first shot is from the BBC looking over to the Lowry

 

This is from below the new cafe looking down media city to the swing bridge

 

 

This is from the water’s edge near to the tram stop, the golden thing is the restaurant, the blue the Lowry

 

 

 

Media City from near the Lowry Tower – this is HDR of 3 photos s0 I could keep all the light detail AND get some sky glow

 

 

6 shot HDR of a little sculpture by the water’s edge

 

Experiments…

This is a photo using the Lensbaby – a cool little lens from a few years back which you can bend and squeeze to make really strange shots… works well with lights

This is a replication of a shot Dave described of Canary Wharf – the 90mm was tilted on a vertical plane, so the BBC tower was sharp, and things left and right of it were blurry. Hard to get right, you had to use focus, tilt and aperture to control the width of the sharp area!

The Lowry to finish

And finally… the original reason I went to Salford Quays back in the early 2000’s – the lowry itself.

This is a 6 shot HDR pano using the black line of brick on the pavement as a lead into the photo