How to brighten a part of your image in Photoshop

Photoshop Tip: Lasso & Blur Tool

Adobe Photoshop has a number of wonderful tools which can completely transform an innocuous looking image into something out of this world. So much so that at one point it becomes kind of surreal. You have to know by heart which tool does what and then work your way towards the intended result – one step at a time.

In this article, I shall be working with a couple of those tools and explain as I go along how to use those to retouch an image and create something that’s different from what had been shot in the camera. These are the Gaussian Blur tool and the Polygonal Lasso tool.

Lighting is everything in photography. Photographers spend a considerable amount of time and money preparing and planning so that they can be at the right time and the right place to capture a scene in the best light possible. In the words of the legendary Ansel Adams:

“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”

However, for every such success that is a great capture we have 10, 20, even 100 average photos that we wish we had never taken. With film as their shooting medium and very little post-processing at their disposal, photographers of yesteryears would have had no other choice but to throw away such poorly lit images. Such images would have never seen the light of day. With digital technology and RAW captures many of these images have a second chance.

Original Image

I took this image of the sleeping Buddha at Dhauli Giri. This is a place adjacent to the site where the Kalinga war was fought around 261 BCE. The site has some of the earliest known Buddhist sculptures in India and more famously, a few of Asoka’s edicts. The sculpture that you see in the image is a relatively new one. It was erected in the 1970’s.

Anyways, the image is of sleeping Buddha in a classic peaceful posture. Apart from that bit I am not particularly proud of the image. But, having said that, I am going to make a few adjustments that should be able to transform the image and at least make it presentable.

Related Post: How to Make a Photo Look Like a Painting

How to brighten a part of your image

Step 1 involves the initial adjustments – color correction, curves adjustment to make the image slightly contrasty – this is necessary for the later steps. The next step is to use the Polygonal Lasso tool.

With the Polygonal Lasso tool draw a shape as shown in the image below.

Using the Polygonal Lasso tool
Using the Polygonal Lasso tool

With the polygonal lasso tool active create a new Brightness / Contrast Adjustment layer. Now gently increase the brightness and you will notice that the polygonal selection now appears like a beam of light coming at an angle from somewhere to the top right of the camera.

Increasing the Brightness
Increasing the Brightness

But the ray of light looks kind of artificial. In reality, it wouldn’t look this edgy and there would be a considerable amount of blur. So, now’s the time to introduce a blur tool. I prefer the Gaussian Blur tool for this adjustment. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. I have set the blur strength to 12.0. You are free to change it according to your requirement.

Sharpening & Exposure Adjustment
Sharpening & Exposure Adjustment

Now, the ray of light does look a lot realistic. But it still needs a bit of sharpening and a slight exposure adjustment. These changes are made quickly and here’s the final image.

Final Image after using Gaussian Blur and Polygonal Lasso tool
Final Image after using Gaussian Blur and Polygonal Lasso tool

This is not the most definitive way to post-process an image and certainly, not all images do require this treatment. But I kind of visualized it this way when I took this image and when I saw it on my computer that visualization became stronger. I wanted the final image to look like this way.

Related Post: How to brighten one spot in Lightroom using Filters