Friday, May 23, 2014

Photoshop Tutorial - Add Impact to your Low-Key Portraits

Today I will show you an absolutely magnificent Photoshop tutorial, with which you can turn your low key photos into true works of art - the final result looks quite a bit like a realistic painting. As you can see from the example photo, the result is stunning, offering deep shadows, sharp outlines, and a lot if emotional impact.


Remember, every successful Photoshop tutorial is nothing but a successful continuation of an exposed photo. Read my article on editing again, and keep in mind that photo editing is directly connected with photo capturing.

For this specific one, you should have a setup suitable for low-key photos. A dark background, no ambient light (or very little ambient light, that can be excluded from the exposure by using a fast shutter speed), and a remote speedlight. The speedlight should be placed above the subject (think of it as a "light from heavens" kind of thing)


This is the image I begin with:

1) Open your image and use a Curves adjustment layer to block the shadows a bit. Black needs to be black. At the same time, slightly increase contrast. If the color looks too saturated, use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and decrease a bit. Flatten the image.

2) Image> Adjustment> Photo filter. Use a warming filter at a 40% density. We need to give a nice warm tone to the image.

At this point, my image looked like that:

3) Image> Adjustment> Shadow/Highlight. Shadows amount 20%, Tonal Width 20%, Radius 10px. Leave the highlights at 0%, and color correction should also be at 0.

4) Duplicate the Layer. Set Blending mode to 'Difference'

5) Filter> Sharpen> Unsharp Mask. 120%, 2px, 0

6) Stamp the Layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E). You can now delete the layer underneath (the one whose blending mode is on 'Difference')

7) Invert the Layer (CTRL+I)

8) Choose Layer blending mode "Multiply" (you can also experiment with 'Color burn' or 'Linear burn'). Adjust Opacity according to your taste (for this one I chose 60%). Flatten the image.

9) Repeat step 1 if you wish: Once again, block shadows just a bit, increase contrast, reduce saturation.

10) Filter> Sharpen> unsharp mask. 125%, 0.5px, 0

Final Result:

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