A Glowing Effect

I recently visited Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto and it was an awesome experience. I chose a non-holiday weekday to be sure I didn’t have to deal with a large crowd. If I wasn’t so tired, I probably would have taken more time to photograph and see every corner of the place. I’m sure I missed a few spots.

As a photographer, there were a lot of challenges, mainly the various lighting conditions for each aquarium. My Nikon D7000 goes up to ISO 6400, then H.03, H.07, H.1.0 and H2.0. Working at the lowest possible ISO is always best but you have to look at the situation and make adjustments. Indoors are often darker and you also have to see if the subject can sit still or not. The shutter speed has to be fast enough so the fishes won’t get blurred as it passes by. A minimum of 1/125 is good. I pushed my ISO to 6400 which is the max I’m willing to work with. It is grainy at this point but if I had gone higher, the quality would be far worse. In some situations, photos were darker but manageable in post editing.

I read on some tips and tricks on how to photograph at a public aquarium. Some suggest that you have to keep your camera flat up against the glass to reduce glare and reflections. Or block out as much light as possible. I’m sure all these are plausible…. if I can just make a request to management to shut off the lights outside of the aquarium to create a studio experience. Holding the camera right up to the glass was hard with the fishes swimming right up to it.

Another difficulty I had was photographing the jellyfish. Their edges were less defined. I did get some good photographs. While processing the images, I checked some examples of jellyfish photos. Many of them were glowing and I wanted to achieve that same effect. Here is how I did it:


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© All Rights Reserved

Dark Version and Light Version

In Lightroom, I created two virtual copies of the same photo and changed the settings to create a light and dark version.

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© All Rights Reserved

© All Rights Reserved

© All Rights Reserved

Final Photograph

In the menu bar of Lightroom, I went to Photo – Edit In and chose Photoshop. I used Photoshope CS6. I opened both the light and dark versions. I selected the dark version and copied and pasted it onto the light version. There are now two layers, the lighter one being on the bottom in the layers panel. I closed the dark version without saving. I like to Layer from Background and name it Original. Then duplicate that and call it Edited. Then I lock the Original layer. I turned off the dark layer for now by clicking on the eye. I created a selection around the jellyfish and saved the selection. With this selection saved, I can also target the same area for other adjustments. I chose Refine Edge and adjusted the Smooth and Feather section. With the dark layer reactivated, I used the eraser tool and reduced the opacity to less than 50%. With the selection on, I erased the image to reveal the lighter jellyfish below. The image within the selection was only erased. With the selection still activated, I went to the Adjustment section and chose Brightness/Contrast. A mask was created. I kept adjusting until it gave the glow I wanted. Contrast helped the image to stand out more. To make the background darker, I chose the same selection and inversed it. I created a mask by going to the adjustment layer again for Brightness/Contrast and punched in a negative number. I’ve also used Vibrance on some of my images.

Here is the final image:

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© All Rights Reserved

This is one way of making something glow. If you Google how to make something glow in Photoshop, there will be all kinds of samples such as creating a soft glow effect of a scenery to making text glow.

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