How To Create That Studio Look – Lighting Effects

There are occasions when you might want to change the background of an existing shot. Sometimes it’s the client, sometimes it’s your own quest for perfection. Whatever the case, here’s a technique that can help.

Step 1

In this example, I took a portrait from I personally thought the brownish yellow background didn’t do much for this model. Her hair seems to disappear.

In Photoshop, open your image and convert the Background Image Layer to Layer 0 by double clicking on the word background in the Layer Palette.


Knock out the background with your prefered method. I chose the pen tool and silouetted the subject, I also feathered the edge so the end result didn’t look like it was out with an Xacto knife.

For now, turn off the layer by clicking on the eyeball on the Layer Palette.


Open a new background (This one is from our Rag & Roll CD) and scale it to the approximate size of your other photo.


Copy your scaled background and paste it over the subject on it’s own layer.

Now, move your new layer, layer 1, below Layer 0 and turn on Layer 0.

Try to envision where you might want a spotlight. You’ll need an idea where for the next step.


Go to Filter>Render>Lighting Effects. In the dialog box that appears, try experimenting with different effects. For the sake of this tutorial, I chose a simple spotlight. You can manipulate the “light” by grabbing the handles and drag in and out. I wanted the “Spot Light” to start fairly low in my new image. After playing with the settings, press ok.

With Layer 0 turned off you can see the balance of ambient light to the spot light.


Turn on layer 0 to see your finished product.

Some additional thoughts.

If you want your background to be slighlty out of focus, try Gaussian Blur.

My subject seemed to have a yellowish cast, presumably from the original background. I increased the blue level in the Color Balance dialog box.

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