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I created this sweet little Christmas image of my girls a couple of Christmases ago and fell in love with it. I wanted to share with you how we created this magical “Night Before Christmas” image.
This image was created in the middle of the day. We got into our pajamas, closed the blinds and turned out the lights and lit the tree. I wanted an image with no noise. Sometimes when images are shot in low light, it produces noise. So I turned the ISO up on my camera and purposely shot the image underexposed. You can learn more about ISO here.
Hint: The light coming from the book is the flashlight app on my phone. Just switched on the flashlight and laid in my oldest daughter’s lap. 🙂
I opened the image up in Adobe Photoshop and completed the look I wanted in 3 simple steps.
Three Simple Steps to Create Christmas Magic.
First step, you want to create a bright glowing look and enhance the light on the faces. To do this, add a levels layer ( the second icon with the spiky looking mountains, if you do not see the adjustment panel, go to window and select layers ) and adjust the sliders while focusing on just the faces. Slide the white (highlights) slider left to brighten. Then slid the grey (midtone) slider left as well for an added brightness. Now slide the black (black) slider right to add some contrast. Do not pay any attention to the value of the sliders because each picture will be different. Just slide them back and forth to your liking.
Below is a close up of the layers panel adjustments. You can see the shadow(blacks), midtone (grey) and highlight (white) sliders at the bottom of the graph.
The second step, add another levels layer. This time you will want to focus on the background or the parts of the image you want darker. Don’t worry about the faces, we will uncover what you did in the first step in just a moment. Slide the black slider to the right and you can also slide the midtone slider right to create the look you want. Again this is personal preferences.
Now you will want to erase the adjustments just made on this layer to the areas you do not want dark such as the faces. You will notice that when you add a levels layers it automatically adds a mask to the layer. That is the white box on the levels layer in your layers panel. You can paint black to conceal or white to reveal in this box. We want to conceal what we just did on the subjects so our adjustments above will show.
Grab a brush (the yellow arrow below is directing you to the brush icon) and make sure it is a soft edge brush. Soft edge brush works great so you don’t have any harsh edges and create a soft glowing edge. You can change your brushes in the top adjustment menu ( yellow circle) and make sure the opacity is set to 100% (red circle). Use the bracket keys to adjust brush size. You will want to make it just a little larger than your subjects so you can get that great glowy look coming from the light. You can see the size I chose around my girls below. Now you will want to make sure your foreground color is set to black. You can see the colors for your brushes in the tools panel on the left of your screen all the way to the bottom. It is the two squares, usually one black and one white. Make sure the top square is black by pressing “X”. Then take your mouse and bring your brush over your subjects and click the mouse once to reveal your adjustments in step one.
The final step is to warm the image up. I add a warm photo and the image is completed. You can find the photo filters in the adjustment panel, the icon with a circle on top of a camera.
This is still one of my favorite pictures of my girls. They are older now and not interested in recreating this every year.
Check out how we did Santa pictures this year without Santa. Click here.