photoshop creative

Recreate long exposure

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
March 30, 2016

Harness the power of light trails and add the wow factor to your holiday snaps


1. Create an adjustment layer


Open your image and  go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves (or Levels for Elements users). Set the Output to 169 and Input to 213 (for Levels, set the middle graph point to 0.75).

2. Brighten up the roadside


When you create an adjustment layer, a mask is created (this mask will automatically be active in the Layers panel). Select the Brush tool (Colour: Black, Size: 750px, Hardness: 0% Opacity: 20%) and run your mouse over the road.

3. Add a blue wash


Add another adjustment layer, this time choosing Photo Filter. In the box that pops up, click the orange square to choose your colour and type 00a2ff next to the #. Hit OK and switch on Preserve Luminosity. Hit OK again.

4. Using a gradient mask


This time we’ll apply a gradient to the layer mask. Hit G (Gradient tool), choose Black to White from the header menu, and drag a line from the centre of the photo to the middle of the white stone building. Now create a new layer.

5. Red tail light


Use the Marquee tool (M) Feather to 8px. Drag a selection to match the red shape in the screengrab. Right-click and select Fill. Select Color from the first drop-down menu and enter #f5877. Hit OK to apply.

6. Outer glow


To make the light more realistic, add two glow effects. First go to Layer>Layer Style>Outer Glow and input the following values: Opacity: 60%, Size: 50px, Color: #ff6e51 (click the small yellow square to edit). Press OK to apply.

7. Inner glow


Now go to Layer>Layer Style>Inner Glow and change the following settings: Blend Mode: Multiply, Opacity: 40%, Size: 3px, Color: #ea5619. Press OK. From the top of the Layers panel, change the Opacity to 80%.

8. Adding more realism


Select the Polygonal Lasso tool (Feather: 3px) and draw a thin horizontal shape across the box. Press Ctrl/ Cmd +U and input the values: Brightness: +49, Hue: +13. Repeat this step with a few different selections to create the impression of lots of small lights.

9. Warping the light


Go to Edit >Transform>Warp and pull the corners of the mesh to mimic the road’s path. When you’re happy with the shape, adjust the anchors points for a smooth finish. Elements users can use the Liquify tool; see the box out for tips.

10. The headlights


Create a new layer. With the Polygonal Lasso (Feather: 8px) make a long pointy selection intersecting the red shape (see screenshot). Fill this with colour #ffdf6. Go to Layer>Layer Style>Outer Glow and choose: Opacity: 50%, Spread: 2px, Size: 50px, Color: #fffdf6.

11. Bring objects forward


Create a new layer group called Trails and move your two light trails inside. Add a layer mask to the folder. With the Brush tool (colour: black, Hardness: 0%, Opacity: 100%), carefully paint over the hidden parts of the scooter and bollard.

12. Create more traffic


Repeat steps 5 to 11 to create more light trails. Remember that red light shows traffic moving away from the camera, and yellow towards it. Vary the opacity of each layer to illustrate different speeds.

13. Light up the road


Create a new Curves (or Levels for Elements) adjustment layer and input the following settings: Output: 232, Input: 100 (for Levels, right graph point: 115). Hit Ctrl/Cmd+Backspace to fill the mask black. With a soft white brush (Opacity: 20%), paint the ground underneath the light trails to make it look as though it is lit up.

14. Funky restaurant light


In a new layer group (above Trails), add a Photo Filter adjustment layer with these settings: Color: #de00ff, Opacity: 55% and Preserve Luminosity checked. Hit G and select Radial Gradient, white to black. Drag horizontally from the far-left to the centre of the image.

15. Add a pink glow


Go to Layer>New Fill Layer>Solid Color and set the colour as #d900ae. Change blending mode to Color. Hit Ctrl/ Cmd+Backspace. With a smaller white brush (Opacity: 20%) paint all areas that would be struck by the pink light (don’t forget window frames!).

16. A little extra boost


Right-click the layer mask and select Add Mask to Selection. Create a Curves (or Levels for Elements) adjustment layer. Set to the following: Output: 213, Input: 156 (for Levels, right graph point: 210). Now, with your white brush, paint all reflective surfaces in the image.

17. Add a streetlight


As a final touch, select the Background layer and go to Filter>Render>Lens Flare. Move the Flare Center over the streetlight at the top of the image. Set Brightness to 100%, Lens Type 50-300mm Zoom and hit OK.