photoshop actions enhance sun flare backlight photos

Today’s Step by Step uses the sets, Picture Perfect, Wonderland and Fresh (Available in Elements as Fresh Wonderland 2).

If you love sun flare, but have a hard time achieving it in camera be sure to keep an eye out for an upcoming post with tips on capturing gorgeous backlit images! I’m just still waiting for another sunny day here in Oregon so I can take some photos to use as examples … rain, rain go away! :) I’ll have tips on correctly exposing and choosing your settings for backlit images, the best time and location/position to shoot for great flare and lots of other helpful tips to capture that glorious sun! For those interested, this image was taken with the Nikon D700 using a 35mm 1.4G lens, ISO 200, 1/2500 sec, f1.6 … it was about 7pm and the sun was going down fast (best time to take flare/backlit shots are either an hour before sunset or the hour after the sun rises because it’s low in the sky). :)

I start with the much loved Pop My Flare! action from Fresh (Pop My Flare! is in Fresh Wonderland 2 for PSE). This action gives you mega color and pop … a little goes a long way, so be sure to adjust opacity as needed. I leave it at 80% for this image, giving it a lot of drama with heavy contrast, color pop and brightening the midtones.

To give her skin a nice, warm glow that goes nicely with the golden sun and gets rid of the cool tones due to her face being shaded, I run Add Some Honey from Wonderland (Fresh Wonderland 2 for PSE ). I turn the opacity down to 45%.

To give the overall eye area just a touch of brightness I’ll paint over her eye area and forehead using Paint With Light from Picture Perfect (Selective Light for PSE). She’s got some great catch lights in her eyes despite having her face turned into shade – this is because the road in front of her was so bright and acted as a natural reflector.

I don’t want to edit her eyes directly because it would look unnatural for them to have a lot of light or pop in them, given we can see clearly she’s being shaded by the hat and has her back to the sun. So, just a light brush over the entire area to brighten her face up a tiny bit at 17% is all it needs.

To brighten up the shadows which have gotten a little muddy with the strong contrast added I run Brighten Shadows (light overall touch) at 35% from Picture Perfect.

Finally, I run Paint on Color Pops from Picture Perfect over everything but her skin at 30%. Because I don’t want my grass to look too neon, I run Banish the Yellow (See You Later Yellow in PSE) from Picture Perfect, painting over the subject with a black brush on the layer mask because I don’t want to reduce the yellow in her skin tones, just the landscape. I leave that at 25%. And that’s it!!

photoshop actions elements outdoor backlit sun flare tutorial


photoshop actions elements outdoor backlit sun flare tutorial


And for a little lighter, more whimsical look I run The Candy Shop from Blessings at 50% and turn on the Rose Water Haze and Honeymoon Haze layers.

photoshop actions elements outdoor backlit sun flare tutorial

photoshop actions elements outdoor backlit sun flare tutorial





photoshop actions PSE sun flare how to

Today’s Step by Step uses the sets, Picture Perfectand Fresh (a few of the actions are in Fresh Wonderland … the others are coming to PSE as Fresh Wonderland II within the next week or two). This particular processing session took me about 3 minutes to complete (including a quick cloning job to remove the distracting raffia on the suitcase).

This image was taken right around sunset, and you can just see a hint of the golden color peeking over the trees in the back. I wanted to bring out some fresh, golden colors and enhance the overall spring-y, happy mood of the photo. The perfect set to do this is the Fresh action set. For Elements users looking for Zippy Soft Pop (and the very popular Pop My Flare! and faux sun flare actions), be sure to look out for Fresh Wonderland II, releasing in the next couple weeks. I also use a couple tools from the Picture Perfect Mega Set.

I start with the whimsical Candy Light Pop action from Fresh (can be found in Fresh Wonderland for PSE). This action gives you a fresh and whimsical color and pop. I don’t need to do a thing to it except adjust the opacity down to about 55%.

Also from the Fresh set (and coming to Fresh Wonderland II for PSE), I use the Zippy Soft Pop action to add a little more drama to the image. This makes my highlights almost blown out, so I turn off the Make It Lighter layer and the Brighten & Contrast layer. Then I turn on the Make It Darker layer and raise the opacity to 10%.

Action tip: Note that most of the PTM artistic actions include a Make It Darker and Make It Lighter layer to help adjust your exposure as needed. Most of the time the Make It Lighter layer is turned on at the end of the action, with the Make It Darker layer having an opacity set at 0%. If an action makes your image too bright, simply turn off the Make It Lighter layer (or adjust the opacity down) … and if still too bright, turn up the opacity on the Make It Darker layer until you see the results you like.

Next I run the Let’s Be Clear action from Picture Perfect to bring out edge details. The opacity is turned up to 33%. To brighten up the shadows which have gotten a little muddy with the contrast added I run Instant Reflector at 25% from Picture Perfect. And also from the Picture Perfect set I run Bring Back Highlights to fill back in some details in the chair and her shirt sleeves, turning the opacity to 20%.

Finally, to add just a little soft sweetness I run Sweet Prairie from Picture Perfect. I love this action for bringing a hint of vintage and sunshine to an image. I turn the opacity down to 40% to just leave a little hint of honeyed warmth and strawberry sunset haze. Yummy!


And that’s it … here are the before and after images:

Elements Actions PSE Sun Flare Tutorial How To Vintage

PSE Actions Photoshop Tutorial Color Pop Outdoor Portraits





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