Essential photo editing tricks for landscapes: 06 How to make light rays
Professional landscape photographers will often visit the same scene over and over, waiting for the perfect moment when the clouds part and the scene is flooded with breathtaking rays of light.
Unfortunately, most of us don't have that luxury. But if you think a sky would benefit from moody clouds and a few 'God rays' then you could create the effect in Photoshop…
01 Drop in a sky
Open your image then grab the Quick Selection tool and paint over the sky to select it, then press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the selection. Go to Select>Refine Edge. Set Radius 3px, Shift Edge +4, Output to: New Layer with Layer Mask, then hit OK. Select the bottom layer and go to File>Place. Load 'rays_sky.jpg'.
02 Render clouds
Use the Move tool to position the sky. Create a new layer at the top of the Layer Stack then grab the Elliptical Marquee tool and draw a circular selection that overlaps the top right corner. Go to Filter>Render>Clouds. Press Cmd/Ctrl+L to bring up Levels, then drag the white and black points inwards to boost contrast.
03 Make light rays
Hit OK and then press Cmd/Ctrl+D to deselect, then go to Filter>Blur>Radial Blur. Set Blur: Zoom, Strength 100 and move the blur position to the top right corner, then hit OK. Press Cmd/Ctrl+F a few times to reapply the filter. Change the Blend Mode to Screen. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T and drag the box to enlarge and position the streaks.
04 Adjust the tones
Press Enter and click the Add Layer Mask icon. Grab the Brush tool and paint with black to hide unwanted streaks. If you want stronger rays, press Cmd/Ctrl+J to copy the layer. Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves. Drag down the Curve to darken the scene and paint on the mask to hide the change over the building and hill.