Mrs Baine

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How To Create a High Contrast Muted Color Photograph

Posted by MWPA on March 17, 2009

One of the photograph magazines that I subscribe to is Rangefinder. Rangefinder features personal stories from excellent photographer’s. This months issue was a special edition as it features all black and white photographs, and many of the article had sets of photographs taken from the same place or using the same theme. This inspired me this morning to get out my camera-the Canon 30d with the 18-55mm lens and start taking photographs around the house. Photographs from the set that I called ‘Randomness’ can be found HERE. With these photos I tried to look at regular house hold items with a different light, experimenting with my angles and post processing editing too.

With the ‘Meat’ shot I decided to make a tutorial so that you can replicate the post processing. I use Photoshop Elements version 6. The tutorial covers how to sharpen, how to correct a color cast,and how to convert to black and white.

This is the original photograph, as you can see it is bland and boring, It is very flat and almost a little soft looking and has a yellow tint.

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Open your photograph in Photoshop Elements 6 and duplicate the layer, to do this look to the right side of your screen at the pallet bin and right click the visible image. From the menu select duplicate layer. you will now see that there are two images in the area now. Always make sure you work on the top image. Layers are great to use when doing lots of editing, each time I start on a different part of the editing I open a new layer so If I make a mistake on one of them I just delete or re edit that layer instead of having to start all my editing from the beginning.

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Sharpen the photograph using the unsharp mask or the USM

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You can see the settings I chose for the USM bellow, I don’t normally go over 85% for the amount and I try to keep the radius below a two-anything above that creates a funny highlighting around outlines.

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Next I did a levels adjustment, I do this on every photo, it helps bring the image alive and adds pop, it also keeps colours true and gets rid of strange tints and color casts.

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I find the best way to make an adjustment is to use the eye dropper tools. There are three under the auto button, click the first one and select the darkest black on your image, you will see a change in your image when you do this, for fun now click on a different color and watch the way it effects your photo. Once you have used the eye dropper to select the correct black click on the right eyedropper-the one that is colored white. Use this eye dropper to select a portion of white from your image. This may brighten your image and make your whites whiter. I used mine to the extreme for this photograph as I select some of the white that was shadowed, so the photograph ended up being almost over exposed.

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This is the photograph after having applied the levels adjustment.

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Next you need to duplicate the layer that you have edited. Use the top duplicated layer for the next steps, This is the part where you convert the photograph to black and white.

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In the new window there are a few different versions of black and white to choose from, you can experiment or choose Urban/Snapshots like I did, I then used the moved the contrast slider to more to the right until I was happy with the way the photograph looked.

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This is how the black and white layer looks, the photograph is nearly completed.

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Still working on that top black and white layer in the pallet bin reduce the opacity so some of the color shows through to produce a muted effect.

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Now you have your finished photograph.

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This effect works great on all different kinds of images, from portraits to abstract, the key is to experiment with how much of the levels to adjust and how much to adjust the contrast once converted into black and white.

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One Response to “How To Create a High Contrast Muted Color Photograph”

  1. chaotos said

    I like what you have done with your photo. It’s the opposite of the over-intensified colors we tend to see everywhere.

    It would be interesting to try making a conversion to LAB colorspace. For those not familiar with working in the LAB colorspace, check out Dan Margulis’s book “Photoshop LAB Color.” You easily create an adjustment curve in LAB so that more intense colors receive more muting.

    Wayne Phillips
    Boulder, Colorado
    chaotos.wordpress.com

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