How to Add a Realistic Glow to Your Photos in Photoshop

Photographing light sources such as lamps without over exposing them or underexposing other objects in the image can be tricky. One way around this is to add the glow during post-processing using photo editing software such as Photoshop. Check out conceptual photographer Brooke Shaden‘s quick tutorial that shows you how to give your images a realistic glow:

Steps for Adding Realistic Glow in Photoshop

  1. You’ll start by using the Elliptical Marquee Tool to select the area where the light source is located. In this case, the lamp is selected.
  2. Right-click and select Refine Edge. Feather the edge of the selection you just made. Be sure to feather it quite a bit so the light looks like it naturally falls off.
  3. Using the Curves, adjust the temperature and intensity of the light. If you want a nice warm glow, bring down the blues and boost the reds. Remember the settings you use for this portion of the edit so that you can match the light for the next step.
  4. Select a larger area in the image that you want to look illuminated from the light you just added. Make sure that it is an area where the light would fall naturally.
  5. Once your selection is complete, feather it, and go back into curves. Apply similar settings from the previous step for the most realistic look.


If the process seems confusing at first, don’t be dismayed. After doing it a few times, it will become second nature. As with any Photoshop workflow, many of the settings will be trial and error as no two images are exactly the same. Play with the settings that recommended in the video until you find what works best for the your photo.

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