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How To Master Lightsaber Effects In Adobe Photoshop

We talk to Youtuber Paul Fontanelli about creating fun lightsaber effects in Photoshop so you can turn kids, or even adults, into Jedi!

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We recently found the above video, in which kids wielding plastic lightsabers are magically turned into realistic Jedi, with the help of Photoshop. 

If you don't know what we're talking about, we are of course referring to Star Wars. The heroes in the film are Jedi, and they have swords made of light called lightsabers. It's all a bit sci-fi, but the point is that Youtuber Paul Fontanelli has put together a fantastic video showing you how you can achieve amazing, realistic looking lightsaber images with a camera, some costumes and a few willing volunteers. We spoke to him to find out more.

Paul has 3 kids, Ethan (8), Hailey (6), and ShayLynn (4). Ethan and Hailey are in the Star Wars video along with his two nephews, Luke (9) and Levi (7). Paul's been into photography for a long time but it was only a few years ago that he decided to up his game.

"I really wanted to improve my photography with the primary goal being to take better pictures of my kids. In order to do that, I really got focused on watching online videos and tutorials to learn the foundational skills, and that’s when I got hooked. Once I learned more about taking control of my camera to get a desired effect, learned about the importance of composition, and learned how to make some post processing adjustments, my results improved dramatically."

Paul says this is why he decided to start a Youtube channel, PhotographyTV, which is designed to help photographers who may not see themselves as professionals take better photos of their family. 

Star Wars


The idea for this photoshoot came about when Paul was looking for fun ideas that wouldn't bore the kids silly every time the camera was taken out. "The idea for Star Wars actually came up when I saw a video from another YouTuber, called Life Effects, in which he created a full lightsaber battle between two people, in video form. I thought to myself, if he can create lightsabers for a full video, surely he can create a lightsaber in a photograph. So, I reached out to him and asked if he wanted to collaborate to make a cool video and have some fun," explains Paul. 


Star Wars


And so, the shoot was born. Kids love to dress up, but Paul says some of them were easier to keep on task than others. "My two nephews absolutely loved the entire process, and they were all in from start to finish. In fact, they wanted to do more and more. My daughter was actually a little sick the day of the shoot, but she didn’t want to stay home and be left out, so she came along. Considering she was sick, she did really good with it as well. My son, however, really enjoyed dressing up, taking about 5 minutes to do the battle scenes, but he really wasn’t too much into the posing shots, so I was only able to hold his attention for that for a few minutes. Overall, they all had a blast with this photo project, but some were more into it than others!" 


Star Wars


After completing the shoot, Paul had to learn how to create the effect in Photoshop for himself. A lot of people can be intimidated by the many options available, and Paul says he was one of these people to start with. "The way that I got comfortable with Photoshop was to know exactly what I wanted to accomplish by using it, and then watching tutorials on how to accomplish my desired task. That is helpful because if you try to learn everything about Photoshop at once, it will be overwhelming, in my opinion, but if you know you want to do something specific (for example, the jumping Jedi, and removing the chair from the photo), then it becomes much less intimidating because you are only trying to learn a few steps at a time."


Star Wars

At this point, I would still consider myself a novice in Photoshop, but I have added just a few tricks up my sleeve. By learning one or two skills in Photoshop at a time, I believe it makes it less intimidating and by doing that over a long period of time, your skills will dramatically improve. It’s the old metaphor of how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."

Overall, Paul says learning how to make one lightsaber shine bright in Photoshop took him 10 minutes. Once he'd got the hang of it, this decreased to 2-3 minutes per lightsaber. 

Star Wars


The crown in the jewel of the shoot was the 'Jumping Jedi' effect. This involved getting one of the kids to leap from a chair and land. In post production, the chair can be removed, making the leap look really impressive. Paul says this was definitely the kid's favourite part of the shoot. "If you watch the video, after Luke lands from jumping, all of the kids run over to the camera to see what it looked like. They had a tonne of fun with this. In fact, we had to retake Luke’s shot of him jumping about 4 or 5 times because he just had the biggest smile on his face in every shot. I had to coach him and say 'Jedi’s don’t smile when they are in battle!'" laughs Paul.


Star Wars


However, things weren't all plain sailing, as Paul reveals that he almost messed the shot up. "I nearly forgot to take the base layer photo of the scene without the chair. Without that base layer shot, it would have been much more difficult to remove the chair in Photoshop, so it speaks to the importance of knowing what you want to capture while you are out there so that the post processing is easy," says Paul. "You also need to have a vision for what you want to accomplish in advance, and then it is just a matter of capturing it. Too often, I believe we try to take pictures without a vision of what we are trying to accomplish, and in the end, we don’t get the results we desire. If you spend a few moments thinking about what you want the final image to look like will really help. Once you have the vision, it’s just a matter of setting it up and executing the shot."

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