We’ll add a Gradient Map to start with onto the photograph of the little girl pictured below. This effect can be found at the bottom of the Layer palette: click on the round button that is half black and half white. Then go to the bottom of the options to select Gradient Map.
For the example here, I selected a pre-loaded gradient that includes purple and orange. I then changed the orange to a light tan shade. You can always go back through and edit the colors in the Gradient Map. For the Gradient Map, set the blend mode to Screen (top left of the Layers palette) and drop the opacity down to 90 percent.
Then we will desaturate our image by going back to the Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers menu. Select Hue & Saturation from the drop-down menu. In the Saturation bar, you can use the slider or type in -45 for the amount. Play with the amount to vary the look — do you need to increase that number, decrease it, or does that amount work well for your image?
Create a new layer; we are going to brush some sunshine onto this layer. I selected a huge brush size of about 2,000 pixels and varied my opacity or flow of the brush between 100 percent and 80 percent. I changed the edge of the brush to have a very soft edge. We don’t want a hard edge to create this glowing look.
I dabbed the brush in the top right of the image to the left of the girl and a little in the top left. Before adding any more sunshine, change the blend mode of this layer to screen. Now take a look and see if you want to add any more. You should have some nice subtle spots of glowing light. You can stop here or add a few spots of colored lights, as shown in the images with this article. Don’t forget to save your files often.
—Jennifer Foy, Unisub