14 photo editing tips and tricks every landscape photographer must know

14 photo editing tricks and tips every landscape photographer must know

Essential photo editing tricks for landscapes: 06 How to make light rays

Essential photo editing tricks for landscapes: 06 How to make light rays

Professional landscape photographers will often visit the same scene over and over, waiting for the perfect moment when the clouds part and the scene is flooded with breathtaking rays of light.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that luxury. But if you think a sky would benefit from moody clouds and a few ‘God rays’ then you could create the effect in Photoshop…

01 Drop in a sky

01 Drop in a sky
Open your image then grab the Quick Selection tool and paint over the sky to select it, then press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the selection. Go to Select>Refine Edge. Set Radius 3px, Shift Edge +4, Output to: New Layer with Layer Mask, then hit OK. Select the bottom layer and go to File>Place. Load ‘rays_sky.jpg’.

02 Render clouds

02 Render clouds
Use the Move tool to position the sky. Create a new layer at the top of the Layer Stack then grab the Elliptical Marquee tool and draw a circular selection that overlaps the top right corner. Go to Filter>Render>Clouds. Press 
Cmd/Ctrl+L to bring up Levels, then drag the white and black points inwards to boost contrast.

03 Make light rays

03 Make light rays
Hit OK and then press 
Cmd/Ctrl+D to deselect, then go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Set Blur: Zoom, Strength 100 and move the blur position to the top right corner, then hit OK. Press Cmd/Ctrl+F a few times to reapply the filter. Change the Blend Mode to Screen. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T and drag the box to enlarge and position the streaks.

04 Adjust the tones

04 Adjust the tones
Press Enter and click the Add Layer Mask icon. Grab the Brush tool and paint with black to hide unwanted streaks. If you want stronger rays, press Cmd/Ctrl+J to copy the layer. Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves. Drag down the Curve to darken the scene and paint on the mask to hide the change over the building and hill.

PAGE 01 Master HDR
PAGE 02 Blend raw exposures
PAGE 03 Combine several photos into panoramas
PAGE 04 Reveal more detail with Layer Masks
PAGE 05 Control the tonal range
PAGE 06 How to make light rays
PAGE 07 Use Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush
PAGE 08 Use Selective Adjustments
PAGE 09 How to use focus stacking
PAGE 10 Make a ‘Dotscape’
PAGE 11 Make a surreal scene
PAGE 12 Light painting
PAGE 13 The key to editing in black and white
PAGE 14 Raw tonal control


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  • Patrick O’Connor

    Okay, I give up. Where do I find “rays_sky.jpg”, mentioned in “Page 06 How to make light rays”?

  • Ash_Innovator

    Same question. These instructions are not clear at all. Is there a specific sky i’m supposed to use? The sky in my photo I’m trying to add light beams too is the sky i selected. I don’t know what to do here.