Masthead header

Free Photoshop Tutorial How to Add a Spotlight/Center Light

Today I am going to share with you how to get that glow or spotlight on the subject in your photos. It is a great way to place emphasis on your subject and really help them pop off the background. The best part is that it is really simple to do!

Here is the photo that we are going to add the center light to. My screenshots will show you how to do this in Photoshop CS6. Don’t worry if you don’t have CS6, because it will work the same in other versions of CS!

Free Photoshop Tutorial, Digital Darkroom Secrets free tutorial, Photoshop Tutorial, Center Light Tutorial

I have edited this image already and I love how it looks, but I want to show you how to really make this little guy pop off the background in a few simple steps.

The first thing I am going to do is make sure that my foreground color is set to white. Then I will open up the adjustment layers and choose levels.

Free Online Photoshop Tutorial, Photoshop Classes, Digital Darkroom Secrets Tutorial

With the levels palette open, I will pull the little slider to the right.

This will darken my photo without adjusting contrast. I want to darken it overall so that he will really pop off the background when I add that center light. And of course, you can darken the background even more if you would like.

Next I am going to go back to the adjustment layers and go up to gradient. This is the part that you want your foreground color white for.

Free Online Photoshop Tutorial

Click on gradient and this is what you will see when you first select it.

Free Online Photoshop Tutorials

Change the style from linear to radial.

Free Online Photoshop Tutorial

Then adjust the size with the scale slider.

Free Online Photoshop Tutorial

Then move it around your photo to where you would like it before closing the little box.

When you are done, hit ok.

You will see a white circle on him. Go up to the blending modes and change it from normal to soft light.

Free Online Photoshop Tutorial

Then adjust the opacity as needed.

Free Online Photoshop Tutorial

See how the background is still darker but the little boy pops? Much easier and quicker than trying to darken the background with a layer mask or burning.

I hope this helps speed up your workflow and showed you how you can add a center light or spotlight on your subject to make them pop from the background. If you are interested in seeing us edit photos just like this (with even more helpful tips), head on over to our store and check out our instantly downloadable Photoshop tutorial videos. You can watch us edit live in your pjs!

If you use this technique on your photos, we would love to see you post your before and afters on our Facebook page or comment below to tell us what you think!

Happy Tuesday everyone!:)


show hide 10 comments

Anna - Great tutorial, thank you!

admin - So glad you liked it Anna! Thanks!

Crystelle Carrick - Beautiful! You explained it very well and it looks so easy. I’m definitely going to have to give it a try.

Krista and Rachel - Thanks Crystelle! We would love to see your photos if you give it a try!

Dawn-Hamilton Color Lab - Great tip, I’ll have to keep this in mind. Repinning to our photoshop tips.

Jaimi - Just tried it out and it’s easy peasy!! Thanks!

Leanne - I have always liked this technique in photoshop, it’s so easy to do! Just don’t over do it! When I was young and experiencing photoshop of the first time I always over edited my photos this way, looking back I realize it was terrible. This tutorial shows how its done in a nice way! Great job!

kathy - Hi, I was trying the tutorial…CS5, but I cannot for the life of me find the gradient tool…I find the gradient map, but that is not what you used. Can you please help :) thank you!

Krista and Rachel - Hi Kathy! The gradient tool is at the top of the list of adjustment layers (I think it is second to the top). It is just called ‘gradient’. So click on the black + white circle at the bottom of your layers palette and you should see it at the top :) Let me know if you still don’t see it!

jenni - Love the tutorials!

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *