photoshop creative

How to apply the Lighting Effects filter in Photoshop

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
January 30, 2012

This tutorial shows how Photoshop’s Lighting Effects filter can strengthen an image’s composition

The Lighting Effects filter is hidden inside the Render set of filters, and is actually a powerful feature of Photoshop.

The filter changes the dynamics of an image’s lighting, giving you control over the positioning, texture properties, intensity and more.

lighting effects filter before

Before Lighting Effects

The results of the Lighting Effects filter

After the filter is applied


Step 1 – Duplicate Background layer

For this filter to work properly, duplicate the Background layer of the image by going to Layer>Duplicate Layer. This allows us to change the blending options for the lighting effect.

lighting effects 1


Step 2 – Load filter

To load the filter, go to the Render options in the Filter menu (Lighting Effects is the last option). The first thing to do in the Lighting Effects filter is to choose the style. There are many types of lighting effects under the Style list. Cycle through them all to get a feel for which looks best, using the preview section to see how it affects the image.


Step 3 – Set direction

For this image we went for the Crossing Down Style option. The next thing to do is set its Light Type. There are three here, but Spotlight worked best. Change the direction of the light by moving the points inside the preview section. You can spin and resize the light to best sit over your subject.

Step 4 – Intensity and Focus

Depending on the contrast of the image you’re working on, set the Intensity slider to change the brightness of the effect. Focus affects how much light is spread over the chosen area, but a maximum of 100 (Wide) looks best.

Step 5 – Material properties of light

The remaining adjustments in the Lighting Effects filter change how the light reacts with the surfaces of the subjects involved. These are most useful when rendering 2D or 3D objects that meant to look like a certain material. Hit OK apply the filter to the layer.

Step 6 – Complete the effect

To finalise the effect, the filter has blown out the highlights in the background. To bring any highlights back to normal, set the layer’s blend mode to Darken. This blend mode doesn’t boost contrast. To increase contrast, be sure to select the original background layer, and use the Brightness/Contrast adjustment.