How to Add a Soft, Warm Glow to Images Using Photoshop

A very popular and fun look for portraits and candid shots is a warm glow that seems to emanate from a soft, out-of-frame light source. This fun and easy tutorial will show you how to add that same glow to your images using Photoshop.

Coming to you from Aaron Nace at Phlearn, this great video will show the process for adding a warm glow to your images in Photoshop. If you're like me in any way, you're eternally cold in the winter and you'll do anything to feel warm again, even if it means Photoshopping the warmth (maybe it's time for me to step away from the computer for a bit). Nonetheless, this is a fairly easy thing to do, and the video will teach you how to use gradients to create natural tonal transitions quickly and easily across the frame. In addition, the effect is easily adjustable after you add it, making it no problem to adjust things more to your liking, such as increasing the size of the source to decrease the harshness of the transitions, etc. It's an easy technique that can breathe an entirely different mood into images, so grab one from your catalog and give it a try!

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Like the kind of beautiful "defects" one also gets from less than perfect lenses. It's a look I also like to see in movies.

Vincent Alongi's picture

I like it too, as some images can be too perfect and sterile. It adds a nostalgic character to pictures.

Yep. I notice that look right away in movies. That screen capture is from the low budget Halloween. An inexpensive camera with a flare prone lens. Looks great. The moving scene looks even better.

Vincent Alongi's picture

War of the Worlds, right?

Yep. I replaced it with a better one.

William Howell's picture

Yeah, I love flare too.
I added some extra flare to this bracketed photograph.

Is that software flare?

William Howell's picture

Yeah, I added it in Photoshop. I love this statue, I have photographed it a few times.
Was driving by it at sunset, I whipped into the parking lot of the cemetery and scrambled to capture in this light. In the composition that was right for the light there was a tombstone blocking the view of the other angel, but I loved it anyway.

Sorry William but boooo.

William Howell's picture

I know, right!
Those new fangled coatings are too good at suppressing flare.

Yeah I was going to suggest shopping for a crumby old lens that is sharp but prone to flare due to poor coatings or none at all to get the real deal.

Another way to help achieve the look naturally is to remove the lens coating, off of say a sharp 50mm lens that is also inexpensive.

Poor filters can also achieve a lot of the soft corner light, as seen in the video.

Vincent Alongi's picture

I’m a sucker for flare. Two of my favorites come to mind. In the second shot, what I really love is the translucence of the orange bag.

William Howell's picture

Me too.

The best examples I've noticed are from older movies. I'm guessing lesser quality lens coatings and simply not caring about the flare showing. Here's another.

Vincent Alongi's picture

Original Amityville Horror? The house/village is less than ten minutes from me. One of the two camera shops I frequent is in Amityville. The village is quaint, actually.

Small world: I bought my first AF SLR camera from a camera shop in Amityville! I grew up in Queens. Been to Amityville many times. :)

Forgot to add that yes, it's from the original Amityville Horror. Screenshot from my Blu-Ray rips.

Vincent Alongi's picture

Either Cameta or Berger Bros.. and it's odd that in that little village, both were there before Berger left. Cameta is my go-to when I need something quick.

I'm pretty sure it was Cameta, but in their original location with other businesses butted up against it. I found a photo of what it looked like in the mid 80s at that location.

It's very nice to see that it is still going. I miss NY, although much of the New York I remember and loved is gone. I may eventually move back, even if just for a few years, but never in the city again.

Vincent Alongi's picture

Yeah, they're in a stand-alone buiding now... at least for the last 15 or 16 years. Back then, I bought a Minolta digital camera- It was a 5 mp camera, though it didn't have interchangeable lenses and I don't think it was classified as a DSLR. It ran me $1,200!!! I used it for maybe a couple years, if that... then I didn't get back into photography until almost two years ago.

That's funny, the camera I bought was a Minolta Maxxum 7000. Definitely not a digital camera. :)

William Howell's picture

Here, this one is real! I swear it!