How to Achieve a Dramatic Look in Photoshop

February 28, 2013

in Before & After, Photography Tutorials, Photoshop

How to Achieve a Dramatic Look in Photoshop - via iHeartFaces.com


This week we invited Linsey Wilt Photography, a wedding and portrait photographer located in Denver, CO, to share her process for editing a photo to achieve a dramatic look.   Follow along step-by-step as she demonstrates her photo editing process using Photoshop in this week’s “Before & After”.

“Before” Photo

If you are like me and sometimes have uncooperative little subjects, little subjects that are tired of being bribed by candy and dollars. Little subjects that are completely over mom’s project 365 and it’s only February, then having some tricks up your sleeve for creating interesting photos even when your subjects don’t want to corporate is essential! If you can find the light, even with an uncooperative subjects, you can have a rockin’ image!  Creating a high contrast look in Photoshop can be a really fun way to make a dramatic statement in photos, especially in your black and white photos. This idea works best when you have a strong light source (in this case the blown out windows) and dark shadows (both the right and left side of this image).

I told my little guy, “All I need you to do is sit here.” And then his grumpy little face just made the photo more dramatic, win/win. My poor kids, I really hope I’m not doing any longterm damage. I knew if I could just get him to sit in front of that door with those awesome windows, with that amazing light streaming through onto the floor then an awesome dramatic black and white was in the making.  I underexposed the image a tad in SOOC to make my job a little easier in post processing and it also allowed the natural light from the window to illuminate the detail on his face. I love the look of a dramatic black and white, they can seriously make my day!
I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

Convert to Black and White

The first thing I did was convert the image to black and white. In Photoshop I went to Image>Adjustments, and then selected Hue/Saturation.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

Bring the saturation all the way to -100.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

Add Contrast

The next thing I did was add a little contrast and brightness to the image to really make the black and white image pop. To do this I created a Brightness/Contrast layer and for this image I brought the brightness up to 32 and the contrast up to 83.

i-heart-faces-photo-editing-tutorial-3

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

Selectively Adjust Exposure

Then I used the “Quick Selection Tool” to select the parts of the image that I wanted to either overexpose (or brighten), or underexpose (or darken). In this case I wanted to brighten the windowpanes and darken the shadowed areas. I really love this tool, especially for editing this type of image. It’s quick (hence the name) and it makes my job a whole lot easier. The “Quick Selection Tool” is going to select pixels of similar tone, color and texture.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

1. Overexpose the Window

I wanted to select the windowpanes and really overexpose them to get rid of the objects showing through from outside. Using the Quick Selection Tool I clicked on the three windows so that all three were selected. {Now all three windows have the marching ants outlining them.)

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

With all three windows selected I created an Exposure layer.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

I took the exposure slider all the way to the right.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

2. Underexpose the Shadows

Next I did the same steps as above but this time I selected the shadowed areas in the image. I grabbed my quick selection tool again.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

I selected the shadowed areas on both sides of the image. Being careful not to select any areas I don’t want underexposed.

If you make a mistake and an area of the photo is selected that you don’t want to be then hold down your option (Mac) / Alt (Win) key while you click. This will make a negative symbol in the middle of your cursor and now any area you click on will be deselected instead of select.

Tip: Press the left bracket key ( [ ) to make the cursor smaller or the right bracket key ( ] ) to make the cursor smaller.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

I created another Exposure layer.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

I took the exposure this time all the way to the left.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

This completely underexposed (or darkened) the shadowed areas I had selected.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

Clean Up

Next I just cleaned up the image a bit using the clone stamp (another one my favorite tools!). First I duplicated the background layer by dragging the background layer down and clicking on the “Create a New Layer”.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

I selected the Clone Stamp.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

I used the Clone Stamp to hide a few imperfections that I didn’t want in the image. I took away the little bit of light showing up under the door, some of the spots on the floor and some of the scuffmarks on the door. I also used the clone stamp to get rid of any spots in the shadowed areas that didn’t get taken care of with the Quick Selection Tool.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

Dodging to Brighten

The last thing I did was use the Dodge tool to bring out the light on his face and on the floor just a bit. I duplicated the background layer again.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

I grabbed my dodge tool at exposure of 8%.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

I then just lightly brushed over the highlights on his face and on the floor to give it a little more pop.

The image before I dodged the highlights.

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

The “After” Photo

And here is the final image!

I Heart Faces Photo Editing Tutorial

With just a few simple steps, you can achieve a dramatic look in your images!

Linsey Wilt Photography

Linsey Wilt is a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Denver Colorado. She is an all-or-nothing kind of girl and in many ways a complete oxymoron: a homebody that loves adventure, an introvert that loves to socialize. She shares her life with her amazing husband and our four beautiful children. You can follow her on Facebook and be inspired by her beautiful work on her website and Pinterest.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Linsey March 1, 2013

Underexposing the shot in camera will help in the post processing. You want to just let the light do it’s thing and darken the shadows as much as possible.

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Kristin February 28, 2013

Oh, I love this! Thank you for the tutorial!! I’m going to try this out with my front window.

Reply

Kathy Norwood February 28, 2013

Hi, thank you so much for your post and I love the idea of using window light for these types of sessions but I have to mention one thing that is very key to terminology and photography. This image while beautiful and striking is not a high key image, it is considered low key. When we refer to a particular key in which a photographic portrait is created, we are referring to the overall tonal brightness (or lack of). In high key photography there is a dominance of light and bright tones, usually an average brightness at least 2 stops brighter than 18% gray, with middle key photography, the tones are about in the middle of the range of tones and the average brightness is about 1 stop higher tan 18% gray and finally with low key photography, there is a dominance of darker tones and an average brightness that is equal to or darker than 18% gray.

I think it’s important to remember that while we all have different ways of expressing ourselves through the art of photography there are some constants and understanding these will also encourage your readers to learn to “see” light and be able to manipulate it appropriately for their subject matter.

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melissa February 28, 2013

I really love this shot. Photos with the light bouncing off the floor from the sun through the window really pulls it together. I have a photo that I have been meaning to edit. My daughter is dancing in it and she has one of those skirts that lift when you twirl and it has the same effect with the light bouncing off the floor.

Super excited to mess with the photo!

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Katja February 28, 2013

Because it’s mainly under-, not overexposed…?

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Katja February 28, 2013

Love it! I’m gonna try this for a maternity shoot next week. Just one question. Wouldn’t it be called low key?

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