Digital Flash

Digital Flash

Digital Flash

Brighten dark areas of a photo like a fill-flash. This effect burns bright areas and dodges dark areas to make photos look closer to what we naturally see with our own eyes.

Contrast Mask

The first step is to create a contrast mask. This is basically just a grayscale layer that'll define where the image needs dodging or burning.

Step 1

Open a photo you would like to edit. Or, you may use the photo used in this tutorial (from iStockPhoto).

from iStockPhoto

Step 2

Duplicate the layer (Layer> Duplicate Layer or Ctrl+J) and change the blending mode of the new layer to Soft Light.

Layer duplicated and blending mode changed to Soft Light

Step 3

With the top layer selected, Invert (Image> Adjustments> Invert or Ctrl+I). You should immediately notice the details revealed.

After Invert

Step 4

The color seems to have desaturated a little bit. To fix this, simply desaturate the top layer (Image> Adjustments> Desaturate or Shift+Ctrl+U).

Before and after desaturate

Layer Mask

We need to add a layer mask so that we can filter the effect so that it's only affecting the dark areas and not the bright areas of the image.

Step 5

Add a layer mask (Layer> Add Layer Mask> Reveal All).

Layer mask added

Step 6

Make sure the layer mask is activated. The thumbnail of the layer mask in the layers window should have a white border around it. If it doesn't, click on the thumbnail to activate the layer mask.

Step 7

With the layer mask selected, open the Apply Image tool (Image> Apply Image) and apply these settings:

  • Layer: Background
  • Channel: RGB
  • Invert: Checked
  • Blending: Normal
  • Opacity: 100%
The Apply Image Tool

Step 8

With the layer mask still selected, open the Levels tool (Image> Adjustments> Levels or Ctrl+L). In the Levels tool, drag the middle input slider towards the left to increase the effect or towards the right to reduce the effect.

The Levels Tool


This part is just an additional trick that'll help sharpen the image with this effect. This part is optional.

Step 9

Click on the thumbnail of the top layer to activate (not its layer mask). Use the Gassian Blur filter (Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur) and apply a very small blur. Using a larger blur will sharpen the image more but halos may appear if you use a setting too large.

Before and after Gaussian Blur

Final Results

Rollover the image below to see the before and after effect

Digital Flash
Dark Conceptual Portraits Course (71% Off)

Discover how to create stunning photo manipulations in Photoshop. In this course, you'll learn everything from photographing models to creating dark conceptual artworks. If you enjoy our photo manipulation tutorials, you will absolutely love this course.

2 comments on “Digital Flash”

  1. Ohhh my gosh! This tip was 1 of the BIGGEST TIPS I've ever benefited from!!!! SPEECHLESS
    You guys are freaking AWESOME!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *