This is how to use Photoshop to add a moon to a photo

Tips & Techniques

Sometimes you want to add a moon to a photo. Maybe it was missing in the frame to begin with. Maybe you made a mistake while shooting, and maybe you just want a nice photo with a moon in it. Today I’ll teach you how to add a moon to an image with photoshop.

The scene

The image we will work with is from Jotunheimen, Norway. It was shot just after midnight in July 2019. This is how the image looks like after some preliminary adjustments in Lightroom:

Pentax K-1, Pentax 15–30, iso 100, f/11, 26mm, 0,7 secs

Several Photoshop layers later the photo looks like this:

Adding the moon

You may ask: “How did you add that moon, and why did you create it?”

I’ll answer the first question first:

1.  Add a new blank layer in Photoshop and set its blending mode to normal.

2. Pick the elliptical marquee tool and press Shift + Alt to draw a perfect circle with a fixed center.

3. You need to soften the edges of the selection so hit “q” for Quick Mask and go to Filters (on the top menu), then Blur and choose Gaussian Blur. The number depends on your image size and moon size, for my worflow, a number around 5 pixels works well.

After hitting ok in the Gaussian Blur dialog box hit “q” again to leave the Quick Mask.

4. Now pick a color using the color picker. Use the selected color to fill the circle. I picked one of the brightest yellows in the sky. Press down Alt + Delete to fill the selection with the color of your choice. Alt + Delete works to fill a selection with a color which is your foreground color. Use Ctrl + Delete for a background color.

5. The next step is to hit ‘d’ to deselect the active selection before you draw a new circle like the one in the image below.

6. Press “e” for the Eraser tool and with a big soft brush, remove the color in the new circle selection. The half-moon makes sense now. The sun is on the right, and the bright side on the moon matches that direction.

7. The moon in our example is way too big. Hit T for Free Transform and drag one of the corners with the ALT key pressed down to reduce its size. (The alt key preserves the ratio of the changed object)

It is of course possible, if desired, to add a little glow around the moon. In that case select a new blank layer set to for instance Soft Light and give the moon a dash with a soft brush using a brighter version of the moon color.

But why did I add the moon in the first place?

So why did I add the moon? There there are a few reasons. Firstly, there was a moon that night. Sadly, it was outside of the frame and I forgot to shoot an extra shot for that part of the scene. Also, the moon adds balance to the scene, it adds visual interest and it is an important atmospheric element.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this technique. Actually, I would also love to know if you consider adding a moon to a photo a legit action.

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