I love images like this (in this case, a film still) in which bright light is radiating out and sort of catching different points, even in a shadowy room – almost like it's trying to spill over.

I don't seem to achieve the same effect when only bumping up highlights and whites (although that's part of it) – the glow, as well as the image, doesn't seem quite as soft. Should I be lowering shadows and/or blacks at the same time? What about exposure? I see from the histogram both highlights and blacks are blown out.

Any thoughts appreciated.

enter image description here

  • I don't know for sure (hence commenting instead of answering), but I think it's probably lighting rather than post-processing. It looks like there's a strong backlight (diffused but directional) that gives the halo.
    – j_foster
    Nov 29, 2015 at 1:09
  • Also, if that's the movie I think it is (the 1995 version of A Little Princess with Eleanor Bron and Liesel Matthews), the room may not be as dark as it looks. It's been a while since I watched the DVD commentary, but if I remember correctly, the director deliberately tried to produce a monochrome effect partly by contrasting dark and light costumes and sets (e.g., the girl's dark olive uniforms with the white cake).
    – j_foster
    Nov 29, 2015 at 1:10

2 Answers 2


Let's think beforehand how that effect is made directly on camera: Normally this is done with a soft or diffuse filter. The filter has some grid on it, so when a bright beam of light passes there it is dispersed. You can achieve a similar effect putting some greasy fingertips on a normal protective filter.

I am not sure if it can be done in Lightroom.

In Photoshop you should have some filters called diffuse glow. What this filter does is find the brightest zones on the photo, make a copy, masking them, diffusing them, and merging them again on the image with some "add" function. (You can do those steps yourself too!)


You can achieve the effect through Photoshop. The highlighted part to be selected and copied to a layer above, change the layer blend mode to lighten. Then apply Gaussian blur until the shape fade to a glow.

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