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Tips & Tricks

The 2 Minute Two-Shot Disappearing Light Trick by Kevin Kubota

By Kevin Kubota on April 23rd 2014

Have you ever wanted to bathe your subject in soft, shapely light – achievable only via your handy-dandy portable soft box, but you also want to shoot the image with a wide angle lens, to capture the dramatic background as well? Of course you have! If you haven’t, then this is a great trick to have up your sleeve when nothing but ice cream and unique images will make you happy.

The problem is this: When you’re using a wide-angle lens, and you bring that light source up close enough to be soft and delicious, it will probably be in your shot. Unless you decide to move up really close for that “human tick” effect, you’ll be further back, with the subject relatively centered – light source in full view. What to do, what to do?

[REWIND: CREATE BEAUTIFUL SOFT LIGHT WITH THIS DIY LITEPANEL!]

 

A quick solution is the two-shot disappearing light trick. The concept of Photoshopping out a light or annoying object is not new, but it usually takes a considerable amount of time and a reasonable amount of retouching skill. My technique takes less than two minutes, including the extra shoot time, from start to finish, and the results are usually perfect.

My first shot. Retouching that light box out would be difficult and time consuming...without the Two-Shot Disappearing Light Trick!

My first shot. Retouching that light box out would be difficult and time consuming…without the
Two-Shot Disappearing Light Trick!

The Two-Minute Two-Shot Disappearing Light Trick – An Overview

We’ll use a combination of shooting technique, Lightroom shortcuts, and Photoshop tools. You can do this sans Lightroom, it just takes a few extra steps. Below is a quick overview of what to do, with detail and a video following it:

  1. Frame your shot and keep the camera stable (tripod is better, but not necessary if you hold pretty still).
  2. Take a shot with your light source up close to the model where you want it.
  3. Don’t move, don’t let the model move!
  4. Have your assistant move out of the scene quickly, aiming the light away from the scene, and take a second shot without the light in scene.
  5. Load both images in to Lightroom.
  6. Select both images and choose menu: Photo > Edit in > Open as Layers in Photoshop…
  7. Photoshop opens with both images on separate layers in same file. Move the light-in photo to the top layer if necessary. Select both layers by shift-clicking each one.
  8. Use menu: Edit > Auto-Align Layers…
  9. Layer Mask the top layer and paint away the light using a soft, black brush.
  10. Crop the image edges if needed.

The Two-Minute Two-Shot Disappearing Light Trick – Step-by-Step

My second shot (see first shot above). I didn’t use a tripod, just minimized my coffee consumption and held relatively still. Ask the model to hold her pose for both shots as well. Don’t worry if you or her move slightly, Photoshop will automatically fix that for us.

My second shot. I didn’t use a tripod, just minimized my coffee consumption and held relatively still. Ask the model to hold her pose for both shots as well. Don’t worry if you or her move slightly, Photoshop will automatically fix that for us.

 

With both images selected in Lightroom, go to menu: Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in
Photoshop… The image on the left will become the top layer in the Photoshop file (as seen below):With both images selected in Lightroom, go to menu: Photo > Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop... The image on the left will become the top layer in the Photoshop file.

 

Make sure the light-in layer is on top. Select both layers, the choose menu: Edit > Auto-Align Layers…Make sure the light-in layer is on top. Select both layers, the choose menu: Edit > Auto-Align Layers...

 

In the dialog that follows, choose Projection: Auto then click OK.In the dialog that follows, choose Projection: Auto then click OK.

 

Photoshop aligns the images based on common detail in the shots. You may see a slight shift in the image, revealing blank space around the edges. This is just photoshop fixing your shaky hands. We’ll crop that off later.Photoshop aligns the images based on common detail in the shots. You may see a slight shift in the image, revealing blank space around the edges. This is just photoshop fixing your shaky hands. We’ll crop that off later.

 

Add a layer mask to the top layer, and select black for your paint color.Add a layer mask to the top layer, and select black for your paint color.

 

Select your brush tool at 100% opacity and paint away the ugly light!Select your brush tool at 100% opacity and paint away the ugly light!

 

Use the crop tool to trim any left-over blank stuff on the edges. Tip: Hold the Control key (on the Mac) while dragging your crop to stop it from snapping to the edges of the image, giving you more precision.Use the crop tool to trim any left-over blank stuff on the edges. Tip: Hold the Control key (on the Mac) while dragging your crop to stop it from snapping to the edges of the image, giving you more precision.
Once the image is retouched and cropped, I use my Dashboard plugin to apply toning effects and lighting enhancements. It can also search and control my normal Photoshop actions.

To finish off the image in Photoshop, I want to play with the color palette a little to give it a more vintage feel, so I used my Dashboard™ plugin to find a couple of cool effects and simply applied them in tandem; first Twilight, then Sun Kiss. This gave me the color palette and tones I wanted but I still needed to dab a little light on my subject and her clothes so I used my indispensable tool, Digital Fill Flash, to paint light just over her face and clothing. Using the Dashboard is crazy fast and simple because I just type a few letters of the effect or style I’m looking for and it appears in the list for me to instantly apply it.

Kubota-2 shot light trick final

Once you realize how easy this technique is, you can start to think about incorporating it in your shoots more often – giving you an advantage when you’re looking for something unique and seemingly “impossible.” Good post-processing tools and technique should not only speed up your workflow, but encourage and enable more experimentation and creativity behind the camera as well. When all else fails, eat ice cream! (Note: Ruby Jewel salted caramel ice cream sandwiches are THE best. Period)

The Two-Minute Two-Shot Disappearing Light Trick – The Video

If you are looking for a complete workflow system, utilizing Lightroom and Photoshop, be sure to join me on CreativeLIVE, April 28 & 29, for 2 full days of info packed fun! I’ll show you my complete step-by-step system for getting beautiful work done fast. More information on our powerful tools for Photographers, including the Dashboard, can be found at: KubotaImageTools.com. You can download the Dashboard free, which includes a great set of starter effects and tools.

About

Kevin Kubota is a photographer, educator, and author with photographic roots reaching over 30 years deep. He has been featured in American Photo magazine as one of the Top 10 Wedding Photographers in the World and was named one of Nikon’s Legends Behind the Lens. He was awarded the Monte Zucker Humanitarian Award, and he is recognized as one of the Most Influential People by Shutter Magazine. His passion for educating photographers inspired KubotaImageTools.com, a resource for software, training, and creative hands-on workshops.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Cinnamon Wolfe Photography

    I hadn’t thought about doing this, but this article was worth it for just the “open as layers in photoshop” tip. Never knew that was there and I’ve been killing myself trying to get images as layers in photoshop. I knew there had to be a simple way to do it, just didn’t know what it was! Thanks!!

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  2. Maciej

    Why would you want to keep the model in place for a background shot? You’ll going to use only a part of that layer to mask the light source…

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    • Kevin Kubota

      Hey Macie, great question. If you are done shooting, your model can leave the scene too. Usually, however, I’m still working poses and will be shooting more. I have her stay relatively still just so she doesn’t inadvertently move a body part over an area I want to clone from.

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  3. V,Ladev

    That is very neat, thanks for sharing :)

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  4. Desmond

    Good tutorial phlearn has a very similar offering tut. very good technique.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfJL_ys2uCg

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