How to Use Light and Shadow to Create a Dramatic Photo Effect with Photoshop

How to Use Light and Shadow to Create a Dramatic Photo Effect with Photoshop
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If you have some older version of Photoshop Vibrance adjustment layer may not be available there. It's in Photoshop CS3+ only I think. But don't be desperate you can do very similar adjustment if you add adjustment layer Hue/Saturation instead and set the value Saturation in Reds on -20.
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To add more colder tones to the picture add new adjustment layer Selective Color and set it as you can see on the following picture.
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Let's take a look at how these two adjustments affect the image.
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Step 17 - Highlights Lighter

In one of the previous steps you've already focused on making lights lighter. In this step you're going to do it again but with more attention paid to details. This step would be easier and quicker if you can use tablet. But don't be desperate if you don't have it, it takes just little more time and practice to achieve the same effect. Add new adjustment layer Levels on the top of all layers and set the Input Levels on 0; 3,65; 255.
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Change Blending Mode of this adjustment layer from Normal to Luminosity. This way only lightness of colors will be affected.
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You want to adjust only selected parts of the image and not the rest. To hide the adjustment grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G), pick black color and fill the layer mask with it. Then grab the Brush Tool (B), set the Master Diameter to 1 - 3 pixels, lower the Opacity on about 10% and pick white color. Start painting over areas with lights to make them even lighter. On the following picture you can see where you should paint, these parts are highlighted with red color.
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If you look carefully on the picture above you'll notice that you should paint on:
  • parts of the clouds to add them more drama,
  • parts of the trunks to add them plasticity,
  • on clothes where sun hits to increase contrast,
  • on the highlights of crow from the same reason as above.
Take your time with this step. The more careful and patient you are the more interesting and realistic result you get. The whole point is to paint with small brush with low opacity to get very gentle and thus realistic looking adjustment. On the picture below you can see how the photo manipulation should look like after all these steps.
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Step 18 - More Contrast

Yes, another step about adding contrast. But you want to have dramatic photo manipulation, right? First you're going to darken vignette little bit more and second you make center of the image lighter. To darken vignette add new adjustment layer Levels and set the Input Levels on 0; 0,26; 255.
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Change the Blending Mode of this adjustment layer from Normal to Luminosity. Grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G) and fill the layer mask with solid black color. Grab the Brush Tool (B), select some soft round brush and set Master Diameter on about 300 pixels. Lower the Opacity of the brush on 10% and pick white color. Paint around the edges of the picture to darken the vignette. Then change Master Diameter on 5 - 10 pixels and make shadow under raven darker same as part of its back. Also make darker white house in the background, it catches too many attention on itself and you want to have all viewer's attention on woman. On the following picture you can see where you should paint, that areas are highlighted with red color.
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Second part of this step is to make center of the image lighter. Add new adjustment layer Levels and set the Input Levels on 0; 1,22; 230.

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9 comments on “How to Use Light and Shadow to Create a Dramatic Photo Effect with Photoshop”

  1. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I've read many tutorials about all of the tools you mentioned in this article, but I was never able to really grasp or truly understand the concept behind the tool. You have explained them in a way that really make sense to me!! And that is very much appreciated!

  2. Woow! I am very very impressed about your tutorial. With all your stuffs, i have no doubt am gonna be a pro in photoshop!

  3. What a fantastic tutorial, covering so many aspects of photoshop. I'm now even more excited to learn the program. . Thank you! thank you! thank you!

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