In this quick tutorial for beginners I will show you how to add a lightning to your photo using Lightning Overlays in Photoshop.
Step 1: Images Used in This Tutorial
Step 2: Add Your Photo
Add your photo in a new layer.
Step 3: Turn Day Photo to Night
Lightning effect is more visible on a night sky. So let's turn this daytime photo to night photo. Read also the Turn Day to Night in Photoshop tutorial.
Add a Gradient Map using a night sky gradient. Use these colors for the gradient: #000000 and #276591.
Download the sky gradients for Photoshop here.
Step 4: Increase Photo Contrast
To increase the contrast of the photo let's add a Levels adjustment layer.
Step 5: Add a Layer Mask
Add a Layer Mask to the Levels adjustment.
Step 6: Apply Image
Make sure you are in the layer mask of the Levels adjustment. Go to Image menu and choose Apply Image
Step 7: Add Contrast to the Channel Mask
Again make sure the layer mask is selected and not the layer. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and increase the contrast of the channel mask to your liking.
Step 8: Duplicate the Levels Adjustment
Duplicate the Levels adjustment and modify the channel mask to increase the contrast on the highlights.
Step 9: Add the Lightning Overlay
In a new layer add one of these Lightning Overlays and set the blend mode to Screen.
Step 10: Add Color to the Lightning Overlay
The Lightning Overlays are in black and white. To colorize the lightning, add a Gradient Map. The colors for the gradient are: #000000 (location 13%), #038fdf (location 55%) and #ffffff (location 97%). You can choose any color tones you like for the gradient.
Right click on the Gradient Map and choose Create Clipping Mask.
Step 11: Final Result | Lightning Effect in Photoshop
Now you know how to add lightning to a photo in Photoshop. These lightning overlays are really useful and easy to use and customize.