I was earlier helped given advice on how to shoot a certain photo (See earlier question How was this taken/edited?)

Now I think I have a good idea on how to get similar results regarding the camera settings.

What still boggles my mind is how it is edited in post. The almost dream-like softness in the image. I'll post another image from the same photographer with that effect even more visible.

On this one it seems shutter is dragged and there appears to be no flash used, as the catch light only has the roman sparklers visible. But does anyone have a clue on the post processing technique used to create this effect? It shouldn't be just long exposure since there's no ghosting on the subject that I can se.

To be more specific, at first hand i am after the softness effect, what i mean by that is that the photo looks almost painted, or like a 80's movie poster. How is this particular effect done i photoshop? The subject is sharp but there is a "unreal" feeling to it. This is what i would like to understand. Secondly, how can one adjust the colors of the face to be evenly white/pale such as in the photo?

If anyone has ideas on how it was made - some sort of filter or plugin - or how it's crafted in PS, I would be ever so grateful!

Dreamlike softness

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It almost looks like his head has a drop shadow \$\endgroup\$
    – wedstrom
    Feb 10, 2016 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please read Important information for asking "What's this effect?" questions and edit this post accordingly. Make sure to use a descriptive title, too. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Feb 12, 2016 at 8:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Dreamlike softness" is a start, but I'm not sure of you just want that effect or also the main figure, or the colors. More details will help. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Feb 12, 2016 at 9:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Looks like the two sticks illuminate the subject nicely, you can see it in his eyes. And I guess the clarity was turned down a bit which makes everything a tad softer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Potaito
    Feb 12, 2016 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you post or link to the other image you mention, so we can get a better idea of what you're going for? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Apr 12, 2016 at 11:54

2 Answers 2


I'm betting on this being constructed in Photoshop. Slow sync flash can get you so far, but the lit subjects are too crisp (particularly the second subject to the right) for me to believe this was done in camera.

Nice image though :-)


Elements of this image include

  • Heavy magenta/purple colour cast on everything except the subjects' faces. This can be done with lighting and colour balance. The two faces are lit with a warmer light. This could be simulated in Photoshop, but I would think this was achieved with lighting - make the background light magenta in colour while spot lighting the main subject(s) with white(r) light.

  • Frozen motion, but subtle motion "streaks". This is probably Photoshopped. You can theoretically achieve this if you had a "middle curtain" flash - a flash firing in the middle of the exposure, but I don't know how you would do that, and/or it would be very difficult. It's probably a layer in Photoshop with a little bit of motion blur/streaking that's blended over the top.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree that the streaks are added in post-processing. That's because I can't reconcile exactly how a lens would flare in that pattern, and likewise if it's motion blur, it's hard to imagine exactly how the torches would have to be moving to get that pattern (especially since the subject is holding two in one hand yet the pattern goes in different directions). \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Apr 16, 2016 at 14:30

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