Light creep no more! How to remove a lightstand from an image using Photoshop.

side by side shot of the image with the light stand in frame and then after post production with the light stand photoshopped out
Above: I photographed model Julian Lee Austin using a beauty dish and elinchrom quadra battery operated flash held by an assistant (otherwise known as a voice activated lightstand)

Do you ever get frustrated by light creep? Light creep is where the edge of a light modifier or light stand creeps into the edge of the frame. This is often really difficult to avoid because the best portrait lighting is created when the lights are really close to the subject.

I can easily avoid light creep by shooting my portraits really tight, but sometimes I find amazing backgrounds that I also want to include in my shot. My options were limited to moving my light further away from my model, and out of frame or not lighting my model at all. Then I discovered this really easy photoshop technique to remove lights and my entire approach to lighting portraits changed for the better.

1. A tripod is essential for this shot. It’s also critical that the tripod doesn’t move. If you are using a lightweight tripod, I recommend you add some some bags to prevent it from moving.

2.
You will also need Photoshop or any post-production software that enables editing in layers and erasing.

3. This shot needs to be planned ahead of time and is now a protocol I like to use in most of my portraits.

4. Once I’ve set up my shot I bring lighting and reflectors in as close as they need to be without obscuring the model’s body. The tripod is locked in position and my focal length and focus points are also locked (by locked I mean don’t move or knock anything).

5. I then pose and direct my model and shoot until I’ve got the shot I’m after.

6. Next I take an image of the background only, this is called a clean plate, not the clean plate I have after I’ve eaten 3 Nutella donuts (no judgement here, right?). It’s a clear background. This will now become the background template. The main shot is the hero.

7. Open the final image and background template in Photoshop or similar software

side by side image of hero shot with model in next to the clean background in the photoshop platform
Above left: With the model and light in the shot. Above right: The clean plate.

 

8. Select the hero shot and using the move tool onto the background template

image that shows you how to align the two layers in Photoshop
Above: Auto-Align layers

 

9. Once they are closely aligned, select both layers in the layers palette and click on Edit>auto align layers. Photoshop analyses the layers and lines them up exactly.

image that shows you how to gently brush away the lightstand out of the image, leaving the background and subject behind.
Above: Soft brush eraser tool


10.
Select a soft brush to use with the eraser tool. Ensure that the top layer is selected and simply brush away the light and reflector from the shot.

Before and after comparison shot
Above left: With the model and light in the shot Above right: After using the clean plate and Photoshopping them out

 

11. Once the stand is removed, flatten the image and do a victory lap around the room.

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