Yonge St Illuminite festival image by Mike Simpson and Paul Flynn - SAM LAMP

The Power of Using Video Stills as Images (Premiere and Photoshop Edit Process)

I’m undertaking a new approach to my photography and design, and utilizing the power of video to make my images. Instead of focusing on taking conventional pictures with my camera I am seeking out opportunities to shoot video. This has two benefits: one I have video footage which is really hot on web and social these days, two I can extract still images from the clips to replace the use of photographs.

Recently I took photos and video at Illuminite Festival in Toronto by Downtown Yonge BIA. The goal of this shoot and edit was to get some useful video and images for social media. For this particular scene and video still, I decided to focus on accentuating the glow element that emanates from the “SAM LAMP” light installation. This requires blending two exposures or using a glow effect. I achieved enhanced glow using Photoshop layers and the blend mode called “soft light.” This intensifies the contrast and adds some subtle pop to the lighting.

In this post I will share some images and walk you through the main parts of the process:

  • Shoot location and context
  • Equipment and software
  • Images from stills using Premiere
  • Photoshop editing with blend modes and layers


There are limitations to this process as video is often inherently problematic, containing grain or motion blur. Motion blur looks natural in the movement of video but may not look right as a still. But the reward is there as you may have dozens of decent frames where artifacts or flaws may be minimal and your subject shines.

Shoot Location: Illuminite Festival and SAM LAMP at Trinity Square

The location is Trinity Square behind Trinity Church at the Eaton Centre in Toronto. From March 1 to 31 there is a cool light installation festival located at a few locations including Trinity Square and Yonge Dundas Square.

Gear and Software

I used my Lumix G9 camera which takes sweet video. I just popped it into the standard photo mode and we shot hand-held and in auto. The intent was to get video footage and use the clips in social media posts.

Premiere Pro to acquire still images

When you look at video on a Premiere timeline there are often stills that jump out at you. “Wow,” you think, some scenes are perfect for export as a still. Often they rival images that would be taken as RAW or JPG photos. Of course, mounting a camera on a tripod and taking still images will generally be superior – but since my target is social and web I can deal with a little noise or slight lack of focus.

To capture the images from the video I first of all stop the video at the moment I want to capture. then under the preview window I look for the small camera icon and take a snapshot of the frame. You may need to ensure that the resulting frame grab is the correct size (which in my case is 4k HD) which for me meant 3860×2140 and not some reduced resolution such as 1920×1080.

I can testify that double checking the files for proper resolution is important. When I took a screenshot of my Premiere workflow I realized I had grabbed a 1920×1080 pixel size image – the result of our computer using a QHD monitor but being set to HD resolution to accommodate my son’s gaming.

Premiere Workflow Screenshot

In this image I demonstrate opening the “Effect” known as Lumetri to correct light settings.

Premiere Pro workflow - using Lumetri to correct light settings

Specific steps in Premiere:

  • Pause video at desired frame for final image
  • Open “Lumetri” panel (it’s an “effect”)
  • First export the image with default vales
  • Export a second time adjusting highlights, whites (reducing both)
  • Combine these images as layers in a single Photoshop document

Photoshop Workflow Screenshot

In the following image, I highlight the use of duplicated layers and blend modes in Photoshop. You might use a mode like “screen,” “overlay” or “soft light” to achieve interesting results in your edits.

Photoshop workflow - using layers and blend modes in PS

Specific Steps in Photoshop:

  • Import an image (in my case it is a still)
  • Duplicate the layer
  • Scroll throiugh the blend modes to see what effect they have
  • lower the opacity of the top layer (I used 32% to soften the effect)
  • optional: add text or other graphic elements to your image

Summary – Night Shoot Tips

In darkness with low light conditions you may want to observe the following:

  • Keep your camera still / use a tripod
  • Use “wide open” aperture to capture more light (f2.8 or lower)
  • Experiment around including using long exposures (1/2 second, 2 seconds etc)
Illuminate festival - SAM LAMP - photo by Mike Simpson and Paul Flynn
Illuminate festival - SAM LAMP - photo by Mike Simpson and Paul Flynn

Final Thoughts – Experiment with Night Photo and Video

I can tell when I look at a blown up detail of this image, as seen above, that there is a grainy quality (visible on larger monitors or if you pinch and zoom). But my target is viewers using phones and social media so this image will suffice.

This image also inspires me to return to the location and try some more images using a tripod and timer so I can allow myself say 10 seconds to get into frame and stay still or perhaps use long exposures to create something artistic.

Be sure to experiment with image capture techniques, extreme lighting and novel subject matter to capture interesting night photography and video.

Credits and Thank You

Paul Flynn - Toronto photographer
Paul Flynn

SAM Lamp by Sam Hardwicke-Brown (@5am_architecture)

Photo and video assistance by Paul Flynn aka @to_shots

Festival created by Downtown Yonge BIA aka @downtownyongebia

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