After and Before Forum; One Photo Manal

The After and Before forum is organised by Stacy Fischer, it is a place where amateurs as well as seasoned photographers explain the wow and how about their photo and editing decision.You can read more here about how to take part.

Normally for the “After and Before Forum” each member brings forward one image and share how they got the wow in the photo. Once a month a member submits a picture for everyone else to edit that we call One Photo. Today is Manal’s One Photo After and Before Forum Post.


When I opened up Manal’s image I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge, an urban scene with a cloudy sky. There are a lot of interesting shapes and silhouettes that could be played with. For a few days I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then I had a brain wave, why not shift it from a day time shot to a night time shot.

If you google, Day to Night Photoshop, there are many tutorials all that work for that image and all have a slightly different approach. I feel there is not right or wrong way as it is just a process, but you do have to think about light and how light is different at night to in the day, this is what will make the transformation complete. Manal’s image with its defuse lighting has the potential for a night time conversion.


I first took the file into Adobe Camera Raw to first straighten the picture using horizontal and vertical corrections in the lens correction panel. In the basic panel I tried to get as much detail as I could from the Highlights and Shadows, added a bit of clarity and vibrance. All these steps were taken to give me a base image to build from.


Within Photoshop I worked solely with adjustment layers and masks to create my night time effect. The first adjustment layer was Hue and Saturation; I reduced the saturation by 50% to have the strongest colours showing though.


I needed to add a bluish tone that you sometimes feel at night and see in night time images. I added a Photo Filter adjustment layer and chose the blue colour and increased the strength to 100%. I did select the colour picker and chose a darker blue within the filter and reduced the opacity to taste.
The opacity and blue tone is normally different for each image.


The sky is still bright and needs to be turned into a darker night sky. Selecting the original layer I used colour range in the select menu to select only the highlights. With the selection active I added a gradient map adjustment, because the selection was active this atomically created a mask of the selection. I used a basic black to white gradient for this adjustment. Using the brush tool I tidied up the mask as the selection selected some areas that were not highlights in the sky.


I wanted to start turning some lights on. I did this with a curves adjustment; generally increasing the brightness by dragging the curve up. Selecting each colour channel I slight increased red and green channels, by pulling the curve up and adding more of these colours. I also decreased the blue curve, pulling the curve down and adding yellow. This created a warmish yellow tone. I inverted the layer mask to hide the adjustment. Using the brush tool painting white onto the mask in windows turned the lights on.


Now with the lights on I wanted to turn on the street lights. This needs to be different than adding a glow, it needs to be a spectacle highlight.
I used the elliptical selection tool with 0 feathering on a new layer and filled with black. With the selection active I used Filter- Render-Lens Flare; I selected 105mm flare as it is white and bright.


With the lens flare layer active I set the blending mode to screen. There was some glowing I didn’t like; I added a levels adjustment layer and set the Lens flare layer as a clipping mask. With levels I brightened the shadows and midtones and this removed the glowing.


I duplicated my street light layer with its levels and merged them down. I then duplicated the newly merged layer and added the light to other street lights in the scene. Some had to be resized using image transform.


For a night image it is not common to see traffic stationary, it is more common to see light trails. I went looking for stock images of light trails and chose three; two for the road coming towards the foreground and one for the road in the middle of the image. With these images I darkened the shadows to turn them black, preserved the highlights and then imported them into the image. I placed the new layers with the help of image transform. Once in place I changed the blending to screen and added a layer mask to mask out areas that the light would not go over, for example lampposts and trees in front of the traffic.


I noticed that I could still see the day time scene reflected in the shop windows on the right. I duplicated and merge down the light trails. I flipped the new layer and clipped it to the window curve layer I created earlier. I reduced the opacity slightly and added a layer mask to mask out the light from any areas I don’t want them.


Now I had the lights I wanted to add a glow. I created a new layer and set the blending to screen. I used a large low opacity brush and painted white onto areas where you would expect to see a glow.


I added a curve adjustment layer and applied a low key s curve; to lower the shadows raise the high lights and protect the midtones. I was trying to simulate the contrast of night.


The colours were unnatural for a night scene, I decided I needed to do some colour grading.

Colour grading is the process of altering and enhancing the colour of a motion picture, video image, or still images either electronically, photo-chemically or digitally. The photo-chemical process is also referred to ascolor timing and is typically performed at a photographic laboratory. Source Wikipedia

I used a curve adjustment layer and went straight to the channels; I reduced the blues in the shadows to remove the tone from the sky as well as adding a yellowish warm to tone to the shadows as well. I also added yellow and red to the highlights to have some more warmth to the highlights.


I needed to add some finishing touches to the lighting of the image and bring the whole image together. I filled a layer with black and set the blending to multiply and reduced the opacity to 30%, which darkened the image. I added a layer mask and removed areas where light should fall from the sources.

I also added a dodge and burn layer ( new layer filled with 50% grey and blending set to overlay) using white to brighten and black to darken; I brightened the flowers to have a bit of a residual glow and darkened a reflection in a window.

I really like the image it has a nice night feel about it, the colours that come through are strong and the light trails help reinforce the composition.
I did leave one Easter egg to show that this is a digital edit and not a real image.

ab-wk-35-Benjamin Rowe After

The Final Image


Because it is a big change here is a slide show of the image progression through the editing.

Let me know what you think of the image and editing in the comment box below.


Also please head over to Stacy’s blog to see the other participant’s entries into this weeks forum

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61 thoughts on “After and Before Forum; One Photo Manal

  1. Ben, this is fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how you brought about this transformation. Exciting vision!
    A touch of Tron on the streets of Gotham 😜

  2. Okay, Ben, you definitely deserve accolades for the most out-of-the-box processing of Manal’s image. This is just unbelievably fantastic! Apart from knowing how to do it all, your attention to detail is what makes it all work so beautifully. I’m sure Manal will be just amazed by what she sees here. One question about leaving an Easter egg – what do you mean by that? Thanks, as always, for sharing your wonderful talents on ABF!

    • Hi Stay from Wikipedia,
      An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, hidden message, or feature in a work such as a computer program, video game, movie, book, or crossword. According to game designer Warren Robinett, the term was coined at Atari by personnel who were alerted to the presence of a secret message which had been hidden by Robinett in his already widely distributed game, Adventure.The name has been said to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter egg hunt.
      Mine was something left behind in the editing that proves this is not a real night time image.

      It was really great fun creating this image, I had to rack my brain about how to do somethings and experimented with somethings. I didn’t mention this, but I got my wife to look at the image to ask her what she thought and she gave some good advice that ended up being the finishing touches.

      I hope everyone has learnt something from the post.

  3. This is amazing Ben, a brilliant version of this image. Thanks for explaining the process to us so well, it is really interesting to see how you have done it. I’m surprised you had time to do anything else this week, it seems to have been a very lengthy process, but well worth it!

    • I will let you in on a secret katie, this week and next is our school’s winter break. A bit like a semester i have no classes for two weeks and my students go skiing or escape to somewhere warm for two weeks.I have had a bit of spare time. Also I think writing up the process took longer than actually editing.
      Thanks so much for commenting Katie and for sharing your thoughts.

  4. What an amazing transformation! I’m slowly learning to use Photoshop, when I have more time I’m going to come back here and study each step! Great post!

    • The slide show was Stacy’s idea a few weeks back. I like that since there are so many steps you can see how it all fits together. WIthout the traffic I think the image would fail as it adds that added dimension of realism.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, it is really appreciated.

  5. Ben this is simply fantastic, and that you took us through all your steps is so valuable from a teaching POV, I have a fairly good idea of how long both must have taken so you deserve much kudos.

    I ADORE the light trails, it totally makes the image and your streelights and their glow are fantastic. I could learn much from you !

    • It took a bit of time to edit the picture, I am not sure exactly but around the 2 hour mark as there was some experimentation here and there. As I have said to the others, the light trails are the key to the image because without them the image would not come together.

  6. This is amazing! And such an informative tutorial. The little things that you did like adding the reflection in the windows, turning on the building lights, and adding the color grading really helped push the image to believably.

    I really liked the part where you explained the dodge and burn with the gray filled layer… the dodge and burn tools themselves are nice but there is no way to ‘undo’ stuff after the fact, I like this idea of gray/black/white layer to dodge and burn.

    I also noticed that with your perspective straightening you didn’t loose much of your image, much like my manual edit… very nice.

      • I have never liked the dodge and burn tools and much prefer using a gray fill layer for this. The lens correction I applied was with camera raw but I didn’t choose the automatic adjustment, just manually dialed it in by eye. It was a bit of a mix of rotation vertical and horizontal.
        Thanks for you comment it is much appreciated.

  7. Ben, you are in a class all by yourself. I have not yet read how you achieved what you did here and am not sure I want to know how you did it all. I do know that I now feel embarrassed by my own feeble attempts at turning on street lights. You just had to show me up, hunh? 🙂

    • Emilio I don’t wish to show you up as you technique also works, especially in Lightroom. What I showed is just the outline of the procedure because from image to image it will be slightly different but with similar steps.
      I hope you enjoyed reading the whole post and thanks for commenting.

  8. I agree with the comments above that you did a fantastic job with this! The light trails were truly inspired, especially getting them to reflect in the glass on the other side. I can’t believe you did it in only two hours! It would have taken me two days of failure to get even halfway that close.

    As for the Easter egg – the only thing I see that could be the egg is that the big light on the right wasn’t lit up. Otherwise, I sure don’t see any egg left in there. And yes, I do know what an Easter egg is in a picture. I’d forgotten about doing that until you mentioned it!


    • Hi, that wasn’t quite the Easter Egg I hid more something I may have overlooked, but good find. Hint it is something that should be blurred because it is normally moving.
      I added the light trails because without them the picture would have been obviously fake and the idea of the reflection only came as I looked around the image at 100%.
      Good luck on the Easter Egg hunt and thanks for taking the time to comment.

  9. This may be my favourite. I love how you have taken a typical London scene which I see almost daily and turned it into something I feel almost sinister! Great tutorial, I hope to try some of the techniques you’ve implemented here 🙂

  10. Ben – I really admire that slide show at the end. May I ask how you did it? Was it a bunch of print screens that you cropped down or did you capture it some other way? I’d love to try that on some of my edits. I’ve been print screening, then taking them into Microsoft Paint to crop and highlight what I’m discussing, like here:

    Hmm. . . that’s a little different since I am showing the side panels. Still, I’d like to play with a slide show like you did (if you don’t mind sharing how you did it).


    • Hi, I do everything in photoshop, I have an action for cropping and saving my screen shots; I click print screen and then play the action in photoshop (crop, save for web). For the side show I will usually stack the screen shots in photoshop add guides and then crop so I only have the image. I then choose view time line and create a timeline and make a short animation with the layers and save as a gif.

      I hope that makes sense, if you have any questions let me know.

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