Tutorial: How to Add Realistic Looking Sun Beams To Your Photographs in Post

In this ten minute video created by Glyn Dewis, you’ll get a nice little look at how to add sun rays to any photograph of your choosing by using gradients, layer masks and smart objects.

Dewis does a great job of making sure to cover every aspect of the process in his tutorial so it’s very easy to follow along even if you’re a novice. And while I’m personally not a fan of adding such special effects to an image, there are plenty who are.

So give the tutorial a watch, play around in Photoshop to see what you can come up with and then let us know how you feel about adding special effect like this in post.

(via ISO 1200)

  • Peter Neill

    I have no problem with a certain amount of post work on a photo, but there has to be a line where it stops being photography

  • Aezreth

    Can’t stand this kind of fakery, it’s just tasteless.

  • marcophotola

    I agree. In future there’ll be no more getting up at dawn to be in place to capture the early morning light? We’ll be able to stay home, warm in our beds, and construct our images in post? Sic transit gloria mundi.

  • ennuipoet

    Or, hey, do the leg work to find the right conditions to incorporate the REAL thing in your photos. I’m just saying is all…

  • imajez

    Some folks are a grumpy lot.
    Did it ever occur to people that the sort of composite work Glyn Dewis does is about fantasy and not reality. He demos very useful skills to learn if you want to do say film posters or advertising work.

  • Marc St.Onge

    Let me know when you have an article about how to shoot a picture that has not been manipulated in any way, shape, or form — I would be interested in that.

  • Peter Neill

    Thats what blogs that are not about photography are for – thats the point. Petapixel is a photography blog, this is not photography

  • S2N

    Good stuff!

  • Mr Hogwallop

    Can’t you just do that on your own? Or mayble look at how to shoot forensic photos, they are not manipulated/

  • Mr Hogwallop

    Better yet, get up and go out to someplace interesting and watch things happen. then go have a cup of coffee and remember what you saw.
    No need for a camera because photography is not “real”. Reality is real, pictures are recreation of reality distorted thru the camera and the myriad of choices and decisions made by the photographer.

  • Marc St.Onge

    I was being semi-serious but my point is there is no current way to tell if any image is totally original, without any post processing manipulation (you can’t prove the negative of something). Certainly I know if an image I shot was not manipulated but I can’t prove that to the viewer. Essentially all images are suspect.

  • Alan Klughammer

    Welcome to the world of photography, and painting before it. ALL photographs are an abstract depiction of reality and have been “manipulated”
    Traditionally it has been choice of film, lens, viewpoint, etc, etc
    Now Photoshop makes many of the traditional darkroom techniques easier.

    PS I have added sun rays in the darkroom back in the film days. It was a pain in the neck, but it was possible…

  • Alan Klughammer

    And while you are at it, only use normal lenses and expose using the sunny 16 rule only.

  • Dover

    It is called ‘artistic license’. If you are a photographer for arts sake, you should have no boundary to what you are allowed to do. This has been true long before the digital age.

  • Dover

    Of course this is photography. Just not your style. Some of us just click past all of the posts showing contrived, posed wedding photography tips because we can’t stomach that type of photography. If the digital darkroom is not your cup of tea, you have the option not to click on those articles.

  • Dover

    And by all means, do not touch a single tool in the raw conversion dialog, or use any post processing whatsoever.

  • Alan Klughammer

    Best reply I have seen.

  • imajez

    Dear me. The “I don’t like this sort of photography, therefore PP shouldn’t publish it.” argument.
    Just because it is not to your taste, doesn’t others won’t find it useful. PP is a blog about all sorts of photography, not just what you like. Do you also spend time complaining about all the TV shows or films that you do not want to watch?

  • Marc St.Onge

    And I absolutely agree with that — if you are shooting for art’s sake, or even to make an editorial point. But what if you’re shooting for the historical record (a photojournalist, perhaps) or to record evidence of wrong-doing (forensic (or maybe wedding :-)) photography) or simply to prove that what you photographed actually happened in the “real world” and was not just something you dreamed up at the computer?

    At one time Nikon had some sort of module that plugged into your camera that did something to the picture file to make it unique and un-copyable but I haven’t heard anything about that in a long time.

  • Patrick Mc Donnell

    Absolutely correct Alan, to quote Ansel Adams ‘the negative is the score, the print is the performance’. Most of those who are anti processing fail to take into account the choices they make before they close the shutter. Perhaps they read sheet music to read instead of finished tracks/CDs!

  • Federico Avila


  • Johnvideo7

    Great tutorial, Photoshop is so complex, it’s great to lean some new tricks on how effects are used. As far as photo manipulation goes it’s amazing what you could do in the darkroom.

  • Grant Galbraith

    These ‘it’s not real’ discussions are really tiresome. Get over it and appreciate it for what it is. Photography at any level is not real. Even straight out camera is either dull because it’s a raw image or a jpeg manipulated by the camera software. In general I find the people who moan the loudest about an artists photoshop skills are those who don’t have those skills themselves. My advice is to watch the video, upskill, and get up to speed with what’s current and relevant…

  • kb

    “Did it ever occur to people that the sort of composite work Glyn Dewis does is about fantasy and not reality”?
    Yes, but you can almost always tell it’s tacked-on bad taste hackwork.
    I guess movies tell fake stories with faked lighting and such, although the current fashion is for movie photography to appear naturalistic, a far cry from the completely synthetic old hollywood stuff.

  • Cynical Bloke

    Looks fake

  • Cynical Bloke

    Ansel Adams technique had limitations that were acceptable in photography, photoshop has none and is no longer photography when used to excess. It is digital art.

  • Shani Cohen

    I am sorry but this is not photography.

  • Tim

    First up, this is not my cup of tea – but hey, whatever floats your boat…

    Now, as to whether it’s still photography or not: I think it’s borderline. People have been combining photos and using collages of photos since the very inception of photography – it’s just more faff with film. Maybe it lacks the direct connection to reality of just one frame, but what it might achieve is enhancing the message aspect of a photo.

  • Alan Klughammer

    Look at the work of Jerry Uelsmann and tell me about limitations of darkroom work…

  • Dover

    Crime scene, passport photos, strict documentary photos of course should not be altered. The image above most likely does not fall into any of these categories. If he were to try to submit it to a true nature magazine and they determined it was altered, they probably wouldn’t use it. If he tried to submit it to a major photo contest (outside of a ‘creative’ category) he would be disqualified.