April 9, 2012

Photoshop tip – easy effect for more punch

Here is a well-known Photoshop technique – one that I like and use on occasion. It desaturates the photograph, while also compressing the tonal range. It creates a modern look that also looks quite trendy. It is also quite easy to apply, by dragging the layers from a reference image once you’ve set it up.

Starting with the original image, I add these two layers:

The important layer here is the Gradient Map adjustment layer. You select it by right-clicking on the icon shown below.

The Gradient Map layer creates quite a nice B&W image. But by changing the Blending Mode to “Soft Light”, the color returns, and the image is quite contrasty … and under-exposed. For this, we add another layer – Levels – to help lift the exposure.

Adjust the opacity of both layers.

Here are the two images in succession – the original, and the effect – so you can see the change.

As you can see from the screen-capture of the layers there, I did use the Portraiture plug-in for some initial skin softening.


camera settings & photo gear (or equivalents) used during this photo session

  • camera settings: 1/250 @ f5.6 @ 400 ISO .. manual off-camera flash


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{ 7 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Alfredo Medina April 9, 2012 at 9:34 am

Good tip, as always.

Thank you, Neil.


2 jthaney April 9, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Great bit of info Neil, so glad you share with us what’s in your creative mind!!


3 Val April 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm

How does this compare with just reducing saturation?


4 Neil vN April 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Val, try it out and see for yourself. Easy enough to do. :)

Neil vN


5 naftoli April 11, 2012 at 2:04 pm

i somtimes do this in LR by dragging down the vibrance or saturation a bit then and add contrast, and possibly brighten highlights…


6 MikeO April 12, 2012 at 3:12 am

could you explain how this could be accomplished in lightroom? Looks like a highlight boost, some black clipping, higher contrast, I’d appreciate some tips!

Thanks! Great site you have here.


7 Tay April 20, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Have you tried a gradient map in the Luminosity mode instead? Similar effect but without having to adjust exposure.


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