Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sunshine Overlays

In past posts I have discussed how I create overlay layers to use in Photoshop when I want to spark up an image by enhancing a sunset light, or warm up an overcast scene often due to shooting in inclement weather. I have been asked by the MCP Actions group to gather up the many overlays I have been creating and put them together in a package that other photographers can use to accomplish similar effects without the effort of first having to create the overlays themselves.

The image below is a sample from a recent available stock photo shoot I did in my studio. I found the lighting in the original photo to be too dull and wanted to punch it up using some of the overlays I had created over the years. The idea was to create a warm feeling of late afternoon sunlight pouring onto the scene from the window behind the models.

To accomplish the transformation I used three layers from my "Sunshine Overlays" collection. The layer on the far left is a center light punch overlay. It is placed as a layer above the original image and its layer mode is changed to "Overlay". The purpose of this layer is threefold: It brightens the center of the image, creates a bit of punch by adding contrast, and adds a warm tone to the overall scene. 

One thing about my overlay system is that I created all of the overlays to enhance each other and work together in their coloring. So, when I added the second layer sun burst (center below) to the window between the man and woman, its color merged nicely with the previous layer. This second layer is called a "Half-burst" because it only bursts out with color on the bottom. I created these half-bursts to avoid carrying unnecessary coloring to white areas in the top areas of images that were shot on overcast days. The Half-Burst is used as a Hard Light layer mode in Photoshop. 

The final layer I added was the "Half-vignette" shown on the right below. The vignette  consists of a somewhat randomized edge-darkening area on the bottom only. It is used as a "Hard Light" Photoshop layer so all the areas that are gray will turn white leaving only the dark vignette below. I created the vignette at full darkness to allow its opacity to be dialed down later to suit its use. For this sample I used it at 57% opacity.

I created my overlay series to cut down on work time when retouching. Layering is a quick and easy way to do this. I like it better than using actions. To create the layering effect in Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements) I just have to drag and drop the layer on top of the photo that I am retouching, make a few changes to the newly placed layer, collapse all the layers when finished, and that's it -- a very simple technique that has saved me gobs of retouching time over the years.  


  1. Cool!! I went to the MCP webshop but didn't find your overlays there. Haven't they been released yet?

  2. Just putting the finishing touches on things now. I will be posting on this blog when the overlays go live. Thanks for your interest! - Tom

  3. Very nice tools. Glad to see this will be available.