Make lightning glow with Lumenzia

I often get questions on how to use luminosity masks to enhance subtle detail, such as the tiny branches of lightning in this image submitted by Earl Gravois. My approach here is to lighten those areas, but also make the main branches more prominent so that there is still a clear structure. Whether you photograph lightning or not, the edit behind this image is a great example of how you might approach trying to use luminosity masks with Lumenzia to target subtle detail. The minor branches, main bolts, and glow around the lightening all need different approaches to create the right luminosity mask.

The key challenge here is that both the subject (the lightning) and background (the sky) contain a broad range of pixel values ranging from dark blue midtones to bright white. There is no range of color or luminosity that clearly separates one from the other as there is tremendous overlap. So even masks based on each individual’s luminosity, color, or even both won’t work to isolate the lightning.

What really separates them is that the lightning is always brighter than the surrounding sky, which is a perfect challenge for Lumenzia’s “Diff” preview. It lets you target pixels which are lighter or darker than their surroundings, and you can use the slider to determine how broad of a comparison you’d like to make, which is helpful for optimizing for smaller or larger details such as the minor and major branches of the lightning here.

However, a standard lights mask also works well in this image, for a different purpose. L3 works great here to select both the lighting and a bit of the sky around it in order to make the main bolt glow. The lightning is already mostly white, so a glow is a great way to make the main branches more prominent. Alternatively, this image could be edited as an HDR image to let the lightning get brighter than standard white (it looks amazing edited as HDR), but I wanted to stick with a standard edit here given Earl’s goals.

Greg Benz Photography