Fake Fill Flash
Today I’m going to teach you a method I use to fake a fill flash. The objective is to lighten the dark areas without blowing out the highlights. Here’s the before and after:
Once you’ve got your picture open, duplicate the background layer. Next, create a new transparent layer and name it “Flash Fill”. Then re-select the background layer copy.
Open the Threshold dialog (Colors > Threshold). This will take away all the color for that layer and you’ll get a strange black and white effect.
We’re going to use this as a selection mask, but first we’re going to adjust it a bit. What we want is to black out all the areas we want lighten, so grab the triangle slider in the center and adjust it until you are satisfied that all the areas you’d like to touch up are blacked out and click OK.
Now, there are a couple of different ways you could accomplish the next part, but here’s what I consider the easiest. Choose the Select by color tool (Select > By Color), and click inside one of the blacked out areas. You should see the marching ants appear all over the image. Now, we’re done with the background copy layer, so you can delete it or simply hide it if you choose.
Select the Flash Fill layer we created in the beginning, and fill the selection with white. Then deselect by pressing Ctrl+Shift+A. Now the areas you want to lighten should be filled with white and your image probably looks pretty funny. Don’t worry we’re not finished yet!
With the Fill Flash layer still selected, change the layer mode to Soft Light.
Now we want to soften the edges a bit so it doesn’t look so strange, so apply a Gaussian blur at an appropriate radius (Filters > Blur > Gaussian blur…). You’ll have to play with this setting to find out what “appropriate” means for your image because it will vary depending on how large your image is. The larger the image, the higher the radius. I’ve chosen 50 px for my 2000 x 3008 px image.
Now it’s starting to look pretty nice! The last thing to do is to adjust the opacity for the Fill Flash layer. Just take it down until the image looks natural. You may be happy at 100%, but that might be too much. Play around and find the right setting for your individual image.
There you have it. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!