Stormy compositions

Photographer and Photoshop Elements artist Steve Jagger reveals the core techniques behind his image ‘Guiding.

Steve Jagger has an eye for good images, and he calls upon his experience as a photographer to capture all the stock photos himself. He then carefully pieces everything together using the tools and adjustments available in Photoshop Elements.

‘Guiding Light’ was composed using selections and layering techniques, which are shown in the steps below. What makes this image stand out the most is Jagger’s application of Blur filters and lighting effects, all of which make you feel as though you’re really part of scene. From adding extra waves to editing the details in the clouds, there’s much to admire in his work.

Follow along with our guide and apply some of Jagger’s techniques to your own images for the same stormy effects.

HOW TO How to make Guiding Light


On a skyscape image, cut and paste a seascape into the composition and crop until happy with the arrangement. Use a Levels adjustment on both layers to enhance the mood. Select a boat and lighthouse using the Magnetic Lasso tool.


Individually cut and paste the lighthouse and the boat into the main composition. Use Image>Transform> Free Transform (if you’re in Elements) to place and scale the boat on the wave at an angle. Resize until the composition is correct.


Adjust the lighting on the lighthouse and boat using Levels. To create the wave, select a part of the seascape’s wave with the Lasso tool and copy it twice. Use the Lasso tool to select the area to place and then use Free Transform to flip and resize.


Flatten your layers. Now the Clone Stamp tool can be used extensively to blend the background in with the boat. Look to refine the edges of the lighthouse and apply light to its layer, using a soft brush at 2 px with the Vivid Light blend mode.


Add waves to the base of lighthouse and motion effects to the clouds and waves by hitting Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. Apply extra lighting to the lighthouse by using the Lasso and adding a white fill (Edit>Fill, with Soft Light or Vivid Light blending).


The lighting makes this piece work.

Use Dodge and Burn techniques on the waves, and other objects, to bring them to life. For beams of light, use the Lasso to select an area and then fill it with white. Sharpen with Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask.

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