How to Paint with Light

Painting With Light

“Painting with light” is a term I give any photo where I selectively lighten or darken areas of it to make it more appealing.

Here is an example in Lightroom showing the original photo on the left and the enhanced one on the right. Tone adjustments were made to give color and luminance balance to the image, but then I lightened selected areas because it was still flat and drab. Lifeless.

I increased the exposure of this photo in some areas to draw attention to the water, giving it an appearance of light shining on it in selected areas. This made it look more vibrant and drew the eye into the photo while giving life to the foreground rocks and making them a more prominent part of the photo. It is a highly-subjective process that requires your artistic skills. Experiment to see what looks right.

You can see the areas where I increased the exposure by +1.2 (colored pink here so you can see where they are) – lightening the appearance and increasing the light and dark separation of the overall photo.

This photo was initially very “flat” with the light evenly distributed. Even in the finished product, the histogram is mostly centered – but better because it is spread apart a bit more than it was originally.

By lightening selected areas and “painting” them with light (increased exposure), I was able to transform this drab photo into one with greater dynamic range and interest!

Some photos will require more or less of this technique, but the principle is the same – expand the dynamic range of the photo by selectively lightening the lighter areas and darkening the darker ones. Do this and you will make a more interesting photo!

Thank you for reading what I wrote – I hope you enjoyed it!