I'm only new to this photography thing, I currently have a Canon 70D. I tried to look this up myself, ask, and ask elsewhere but haven't had an answer yet. Wondering if someone would be able to explain how Liam Wong gets his photos looking like this. Is it a mixture of both a lot of pre/post production, where would be a good place to start?

More specifically:

  • How does he get the 'Neon Lights' effect in the image, but keep the blacks so black. Also, keeping the detail on all the signs quite nice.
  • How does he not blow out the light/contrast?
  • What lens/settings would you think he used?
  • Is this more post-production, and if so would it be a mixture of Photoshop and Lightroom?

I've been playing around with the camera with Christmas lights during the holidays and don't seem to be able to capture such colour. As I said, I'm very new to this and want to try and recreate this effect with little knowledge. I am slowly learning how most images are done, but am at a loss with these images, haha. I'm more looking at what he does pre-production, but obviously any information would be great. Thanks all.

Picture One Picture Two

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ There's definitely a lot of post processing involved - I know both those streets and the colours are not like that in real life! They are lovely shots. \$\endgroup\$
    – N. Virgo
    Jan 8, 2017 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ One thousand plusses for describing what you see in text rather than just posting a photo and asking "How do I get this effect?" \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jan 8, 2017 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks - Yeah, I've also been in the streets (and others he has taken) and I know for sure they don't look like this. Which is why I'm so confused. He can't have done long exposure to capture the lights. I'm at a loss. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dean Cook
    Jan 8, 2017 at 23:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you any images of your own from those streets that you can share here? I think a lot of it is post processing and the rest is the subject matter, but not everybody has neon light polluted streets like this in the images nearby. Maybe if you can share a "regular" image of those streets for people to play around with, somebody can point out the right workflow. \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Jan 8, 2017 at 23:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is entirely too broad to be answered on here. If you have a more specific question and a particular part you're stuck on I can answer either on here or request it be migrated to GraphicDesign.SE but there's way too much to answer currently. Please edit the question to be more focused on a specific part. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9, 2017 at 13:37

5 Answers 5


It's post-production. From an interview on the Lost at E Minor website:

A lot of our readers are curious as to how you achieved this neon effect. Mind sharing to us your secret?

“It’s simple. I try to shoot neutral, whilst featuring lights and darks. This gives me more control for when I play with the contrast and colors, for which I use Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop. With the exception of one photograph (you’ll have to guess which), I don’t actually manipulate them, I only tweak the color information that is there to find the contrast that I want.”

It's probably more the fact that he's, y'know, a graphic design director for Ubisoft. That is not your average Photoshop/digital image manipulation skillz level. :)

In Lightroom, I'd probably start with manipulating the contrast and saturation (either via the sliders or through Curves manipulation), and then start tackling the colors individually with the HSL panel sliders, while firmly keeping in mind the final look I wanted to get.

He says that he had just gotten a copy of Syd Mead's Kronolog and that was what was in his head when he was working on these photos.


This was achieved in post-production. While I can't say what technique Liam Wong used, you can achieve something similar using Topaz Labs' Glow 2. With a bit of experimentation and blending, you'll be able to keep the blacks deep along with neon colors that pop.

Image taken from the Topaz Labs Website Image taken from the Topaz Labs Website

  • \$\begingroup\$ Awesome - I'll grab a free trial and mess around with this. It kind of looks like what I'm after, just hope I can get the pre-production photo correct to make editing worth it. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Dean Cook
    Jan 8, 2017 at 23:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Make sure to play with the effects opacity and the blending modes (bottom right menu), they can tame over the top effects. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9, 2017 at 0:17

The effects are really interesting. I am reminded a little bit of the effects of the poster edges filter in Photoshop Elements. It defines edges and removes some of the variations within adjacent colors. But I don't think you can duplicate his effects with Christmas lights - part of the effect is the hard edge between the lighted signs and the dark background. I don't have a similar photo to play with, but the following illustrate the poster edge filter. Here is the before picture: This is the "before" shot

Using a filter with the settings of edge thickness=1, edge intensity=1, posterization=0, you get the following result:

This is the after shot

I am sure there is more to it than this, but hopefully this will give you a possible path forward to explore on your own and find something equally as compelling.


Good evening, I have Eos 70D too. You need to select M mode and take picture with long exposure (for example 10-30 sec) and high diaphragm level (F10-F20). It means that light from neon ligts fixes on a picture, but dark zones are too dark to be bright on a picture. You also need to try different diaphragm levels and exposures, of course!

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    \$\begingroup\$ With the second picture showing frozen motion of the pedestrians, I doubt that long exposure is the key ingredient to this particular style. \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Jan 8, 2017 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, with how crisp and clear the people are I don't think it's long exposure. That's where I'm stuck, I feel the long exposure is required to get this amount of light, but it can't be that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dean Cook
    Jan 8, 2017 at 23:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe he asked people not to move and took photo with 0,5" and F8. It may be enough. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9, 2017 at 7:20

A stand is critical for sharpness. Long expo is not needed. Use RAW file format (from that you can do a lot more) Don't let the camera select WB (White Balance). I use to set WB to Daylight, having the colors as on film. Then the colors are more natural and not so boring as night shots tend to be if camera decides.

Play around and have fun Anders Sweden

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ If you're using RAW, why does it matter what WB is selected in camera? \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Jan 12, 2017 at 19:38

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