Shooting Cool Portraits with Neon Background Effects Step by step tutorial for creating neon creative shots

In this video photographer, Gavin Hoey looks at how to create a unique series of portrait shots with mock neon lights added realistically in post.

We always prefer to do what we can in camera, however, there are situations where adding something is difficult, expensive or downright impossible. For this series, Hoey wanted to add some cool neon lights behind the model. Doing so in real life would have been challenging but in post it is actually fairly simple.

Even if you are going to do some of the work in post you still need to prepare the ground and plan ahead when you shot. In this case, Hoey used two lights with red gels lighting the model from the back creating the red glow that will “sell” the image later on when he actually adds the neon in post. There is also one light in the front and the shooting setup is complete.

Now that we got our image (or images in this case) we can head over to editing and in this case, Hoey uses Photoshop to add in the neon behind the model. You can download 3 different neon shapes from Hoey’s site. You need to place them onto your image in a new layer and then you need to bring it to the back after you choose the screen blending layer and resize and rotate to your liking.

Now you need to make a selection of your model and mask it in a way so that the areas that are behind her look good (Hoey shows this in the video – just make sure that your selection is good in the areas where the neon is “cutting” the model). If you don’t like the color of the neon you can use the hue/saturation setting to fine-tune or completely change the color of the neon layer.

It might also be nice to add some blur to the neon layer since it is in the back and if you like you can also use some glow (Hoey used smoke in the shot – you don’t have to although it is pretty cool) by choosing a color close to that of the neon lights and with a large and very soft brush add some touches around the background (you might want to reduce the opacity if it is too prominent in the shot).

You can check out many more helpful photography tips on our Photography tips section here on LensVid. You can also check out some of Gavin Hoey’s other videos here on LensVid.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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