Adding a Beautiful Sun Glow Effect in Nik Color Efex Pro

by Nov 30, 2022Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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Adding a Beautiful Sun Glow Effect in Nik Color Efex Pro

I’m sure that you will have seen many landscape photos featuring beautiful glow effects. One popular, possibly overused glow effect is the Orton Effect. It’s popular amongst woodland photographers and you can learn more about it in this other tutorial. That’s because I want to share a different type of glow effect here.

I want to explain how to create the effect of glowing sunlight, like you can see in the photo below. And, I’m going to add this glow using only Nik Color Efex Pro.

Blackpool Central Pier at sunset showing a beautiful glow effect

Nik Color Efex Pro is part of the Nik Collection. If you don’t have the Nik Collection, you can download a trial version from the DxO website.

Whilst I’ll be using Nik Color Efex Pro 5 for this tutorial, earlier versions of the software also include the filters used.

The Starting Image

To create a sun glow effect, it’s important to start with the right image. This isn’t an effect you can apply to any image and achieve a good result. Typically, this means a sunrise or sunset scene where you can see the sun, like the example below. The technique also works well when the sun is at a low angle and can be seen striking objects.

Starting image prior to processing with Nik Color Efex Pro

Here the image has already been adjusted using DxO PhotoLab 6 to correct any problems.

To apply the glow effect, we will use two filters found in Nik Color Efex Pro, which are “Sunlight” and “Soft Glow”. By combining these and applying them selectively to areas of sunlight, we can produce a beautiful effect that makes the light appear to glow.

But using the two filters alone is not sufficient to create the effect. The glow also needs to be applied selectively using control points. This allows us to avoid a common mistake which is to apply a glow to areas of shadow where there isn’t any light. Doing this can create dark halos around dark objects. Please try to avoid this.

Applying the Sunlight Filter

You will find the filters in Nik Color Efex on the left side of the interface.

Find and add the “Sunlight” filter (1) to the image. This will add a strong glow effect to the image as you can see in the following screenshot.

Adding the Sunlight filter in Nik Color Efex Pro

Once added to an image, the filters appear on the right of the interface (2), where you can adjust their controls.

Before adjusting the filter controls, it’s a good idea to use Control Points to select where the effect is seen. Currently the effect is applied to the entire image, which can also make it appear stronger. When it’s applied selectively it seems to reduce in strength.

Adding Sunlight Filter Control

Each filter you add to the image will have it’s own set of Control Points. You will find the icons to add these at the bottom of the filter.

Control points attached to each filter in Color Efex Pro

There are two types of control point you can add in Nik Color Efex Pro; these are positive and negative as indicated by their icons. The positive control point limits the effect of the filter so that it’s only seen where the control point is added. In contrast, the negative control point will remove the effect of the filter from the area where it’s added.

In our sample image, we want to limit the glow effect to the areas of the sun, surrounding cloud and the sand where the sun is reflecting. We therefore want to use positive control points to achieve this.

To add a control point, click the icon and then position your mouse pointer over the image. You can then click to add the Control Point to that area. The Control Points work by sampling an area of the image and then selecting similar tones and colours. You can read my tutorial to learn more about using Control Points.

Adding a Control point to bright areas to control the glow effect

Here you can see the first control point, placed near to the sun. Notice how this appears to reduce the strength of the filter’s effect even though the settings are unchanged.

You can then add further control points to areas where you want the glow effect to be visible, like the light reflecting on the sand.

It’s then possible to refine the effect further by adjusting the filter controls. And if you are using Nik Color Efex Pro 5, you can also adjust the sensitivity of the Control Points to make them more or less accurate.

Adding the Classical Soft Focus Filter

The second filter to complete our sun glow effect is the Classical Soft Focus filter. You will also find this listed on the left of the interface.

Adding the Classic Soft Focus filter in Nik Color Efex Pro

As you can see from the screenshot, adding the filter has an extreme effect on the image. But like with the Sunlight filter, this effect will reduce once we apply the Control Points.

To add a control point, click the positive Control Point icon at the bottom of the new filter on the right of the interface. You can then click the points in the image where you want to add the glow effect.

Here’s how the image looks after Control Points have been added to the area near the sun and to the bright reflections on the sand.

Image following the addition of the classic soft focus filter

In addition, the Method dropdown of the Classical Soft Light was changed from 1 to 2. Method 1 produces a brighter glow effect than method 2. By choosing method 2, we prevent the bright areas of the image from looking washed out.

Additional Nik Color Efex Filters

We can’t end this tutorial without mentioning two other filters that you might want to combine with the sun glow effect. These are the “Darken/Lighten Centre” filter which you can use to produce a vignette effect. Additionally, there is the “Glamour Glow” filter which also produces a strong glow effect. When used at higher strengths, this can also have a warming effect on the light.

Here’s how the finished image looks after applying these two other filters. Notice the glow effect that’s been added to produce the bright sky and glowing reflections on the sand.

Comparing the sun glow effect with the original image

Now watch the following video where I demonstrate the effect using a different image. The video also shows how to use the Control Point adjustments in Nik Color Efex 5 as well as the Pro Contrast filter.

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You can also watch this video on my YouTube channel. I publish a new video every week, often based on subscribers’ requests and feedback. Subscribe to my YouTube channel now and be sure not to miss future videos.

As I’ve mentioned previously on this website, I also consider the Pro Contrast filter to be essential for editing landscape photography. You can read about why in this tutorial.

More Nik Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Nik Collection Tutorials page.

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