The Lighten Blend Mode and the Sea of a Million Waves!

A few weeks ago I conducted a tutorial showing off the various Blend Modes in Photoshop, but I hesitated to get too far into the Lighten Blend Mode.  The Lighten Blend Mode can be a powerful asset in photo post processing.  Most people use it to create the star trail paths that look like giant circles in the sky.  In many cases those images are created from a series of long exposures not one photo.  Let’s look at what Adobe says about the Lighten Blend Mode.

Adobe describes the Lighten Blend Mode accordingly:

Lighten Blend Mode:  Looks at the color information in each channel and selects the base or blend color—whichever is lighter—as the result color. Pixels darker than the blend color are replaced, and pixels lighter than the blend color do not change.

What does that mean in layman’s terms?  In it’s most basic principle it means any layer you set to Lighten will vanish unless the pixels contained in a given area are lighter than the layer you are placing it on.  To demonstrate this.  I took White and Black and painted them on a photo.  I then set that layer’s blend mode to Lighten.  The result shows that all of the Black vanishes and only the pixels that are lighter than the underlying layer staying.

Lighten Blend Mode Example

So how would you use this in practical application?  In today’s Photoshop tutorial will show how 9 photos of the ocean waves can be stacked on top of one another to look like a much more violent sea and it is done rather quickly using the lighten blend mode!

Before After Lighten Blend Mode

Like the style of this tutorial?  You will LOVE HDR Insider!  Full-Length HDR Workflows, Critiques & More!

Insider Logo cut Ad with Join Button Lighten Blend Mode

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Blake Rudis
f.64 Academy and f.64 Elite are the brainchildren of Blake Rudis. While he is a landscape photographer, he is most passionate about post-processing images in Photoshop and mentoring others.

For Blake, it's all about the art and process synergy. He dives deep into complex topics and makes them easy to understand through his outside-the-box thinking so that you can use these tricks in your workflow today!
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