Creating GREAT RIM LIGHT in post.
Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Sometimes you missed the perfect angle, or the sun was too high, or you just plain need to fake it. Never-the-less, you need to add flashy Rim Light to your photo in the editing phase. That's where this post comes in. I'm going to walk you through how I made proper looking rim light in a composition I made not too long ago. Why? Because it was hard and I learned a lot in the process, and maybe sharing with you can save you a lot of time and headache. In this blog I'll be using Affinity Photo to create this effect, but you should be able to follow along in Photoshop using the same basic steps.
You see the soft glow of light along my head and shoulders? THAT'S what we want.
Can you spot the difference?
It's so jarring.
The first step is to cut out your subject from the background. We wont touch on how to do that in this blog post, but here is a link to a great tutorial. You Need to know how to do that before you can do this.
The second step is to create a new layer directly above the subject layer. To do that, select the subject layer, then create a new layer (pixel layer in Affinity Photo) from the icon at the bottom of the layers panel.
Then, with the new pixel layer selected, hold Ctrl and left click the subject layer icon. This will selected the shape of the layer below. If you have properly cut out your subject, this will select it and you will see the "marching ants" outline.
Now, with your new layer (pixel layer) still selected, fill it with any color. It doesn't matter which, it will be made transparent. You can use the Paint Bucket tool, or in Photoshop, Shift+Backspace will open a "fill layer" dialog box, and you can fill it that way.
Now select Layer FX. This will open a large dialog box with all kinds of confusing information. At the bottom of the box there is a slider that says "Fill Opacity". Drag that to zero. In Photoshop this option will be in the "Blending Options" panel.
Select the "Inner Shadow" panel and set the blend mode to "Screen" and the color to pure white (Or the same color as your source of light. Mine happened to be white). Pay attention to the angle of light in your composition, mine was coming from straight down, so my angle was set to 270 degrees, but yours may be different. As well as the Radius, Offset, and Intensity. These will all depend on your photo.
Now that you have created the light, you need to transform the layer into a Pixel Layer. Do that by right-clicking the layer and selecting the "Rasterize" option.
Make sure the "Preserve Layer FX" box is UNCHECKED!
Then click "Rasterize"
Using the Eraser you can get rid of all the parts of the "light" that don't make sense, like the parts under my legs. No light would be reflected from there.
We are almost done. Affinity photo uses something called "Live Filters" instead of Photoshop's "Smart Filters" function. So click the "Live Filters" button located at the bottom of the layers panel. Select "Gaussian Blur". A dialog box will pop up and you'll be able to blur your Rim Light. I used a blur of .5 pixels, but again, this amount depends on personal taste and your photo.
Now close that dialog box and adjust the Layer opacity if you need to.
And that's it! Now you have amazing looking rim light in your photo that wasn't there before! Good job! Below is the full photo I used this method on.