How to Add a Soft, Magic Glow to Your Photos in Photoshop

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Hey Photoshopers, in today’s tutorial I am going to show you how to add a soft, magic glow to your photos in Adobe Photoshop. This technique will allow you add more atmosphere and magical feeling to your image! This glow effect is also know as the Orton effect, which was found by Michael Orton. He got an idea to combine overexposed and out of focus image with properly exposed and sharp image to create this water colour effect. In this tutorial we are going to learn how to do this, so let’s start and import the picture into Photoshop.

The first thing we are going to do is duplicate background layer by pressing Ctrl and a letter J.

Then lets go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Set the amount radius to between 15-40 pixels. The amount will vary depending on how much detail you got in your image, resolution, how much glow you want to add etc. For this image of clovers I’m choosing 19 pixels. Once you choose the amount you like hit OK.

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Next we are going to add Curves layer. This is were the glow part of the effect comes in. Let’s do this weird S shape, which will effect mostly the Highlights giving it the glowing look.

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Now we need to clip the layers. To do that right click on the Curves layer and select Create Clipping Mask. What it does is makes sure that any adjustments we do to the blur layer, the curves layer will be affected the same.

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Now all we have to do is reduce the opacity of the blur layer. Set the amount to around 15-30 percent. In this case I chose 29 percent.

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We are pretty much done, the last thing I am going to do is add a little vignette (if you feel like you don’t want to add a vignette you can skip this step). To do that click Create a new layer; select Elliptical Marque tool ( M ), then create an oval by clicking and dragging the mouse.

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Now right click on the outside of the selection and click Select inverse. Then select the paint bucket tool ( G ), make sure that foreground colour is Black and apply it on the selection. Once you are done press Ctrl D.

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Then go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and select the Radius to your liking and press OK. You can also transform the vignette by clicking Ctrl and a letter T on our keyboard. Then hold the Alt key and stretch it out, this will make a Vignette less visible and more subtle.

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And that is it. We have added a soft, magic glow to the photos in Adobe Photoshop. As you can see in before and after pictures, we have created this glowing, magic feeling to it. The other cool thing about this technique is that it helps soften blown out highlights and increases colour saturation. This effect wont work for every photo, it looks best on photos with bright highlights like these clover leaves. I recommend you to test this effect here and there and see if it works with your image.

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If you liked this tutorial be sure to like it and share it with your friends! Have fun and see you in the next tutorial!

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