In this video I will show you how to make a cinematic ambient light effect in Photoshop by creating beams/rays of light
Creating this kind light beams is very easy and they can really enhance your images because they create depth and a better ambient light. Combine it with some basic color grading and you can create a truly interesting look.
Creating ambient Light in Photoshop
Open the image that you want to use for your light effect. I used an image of an old train but this effect can be made for old attics, barns, rooms or whatever images where a sun rays and light beams could look nice.
Create a new layer above your image and use the Pen Tool or the Polygonal Lasso tool to create a selection above the window or opening where the light come through. I make it on top of the train window.
Fill the selection with a bright color on the new layer. I used the color #fff6dc to simulate the sunlight but you can use any color you like.
With the layer selected press Cmd/Ctrl+T or go to Edit>Free Transform to load the Free transform tool and then right click and select Distort and distort the shape like shown below. You can also use the Perspective to widen one end of the shape as the light expands.
Soften your light beam using a Blurring filter. For this kind of light beam I used the Box Blur but the Gaussian Blur also looks nice.
Now create a gradient map for the light layer and use a white to black linear gradient to fade the effect as shown below. I left the blend mode to Normal but you can try Screen, Lighten or stack up multiple layers on Softlight, it depends on your photo. I dropped the Opacity to 50% for a more realistic ambient light effect.
Now repeat the same with all the windows or places where you want to create this effect. Play with blend modes and keep a consistent angle if you only have one light source. Also use different blurring amounts if you want a more visible beam of light and not so diffused.
If you want to create a cinematic effect use adjustment layers. I used a Color Lookup with the Tension Green on Normal at 60% and an RGB Gradient Map on Color at 10%.