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Step 1Open a photo into Photoshop. This effect is ideal for nighttime cityscapes. Here is the image that I'll be using.
Step 2Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. You can do this by clicking on the button in the Adjustments panel (Window > Adjustments) or by going to File > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation.
Step 3The Hue/Saturation adjustment lets you shift the hue, saturation, and lightness. We'll be using this tool to desaturate all colors except for reds and yellows. In the Properties panel (Window > Properties), click on the dropdown menu and select the Greens. Set the saturation to -100.
Step 4Repeat the previous step for the cyan, blues, and magentas. Your photo should have a desaturated effect like the image below.
Step 5Now let's adjust the lightness. If your photo is like ours with deep blue skies, you can switch to the blue channel and lower the lightness. This will give your photo a more contrasty look.
Step 6Finally, we'll tweak the colors of the light trails. Switch to the red or yellow channel and adjust the settings to get your desired effect. For my photo, I adjusted the reds to make them more orange:
- Hue: +21
- Saturation: +61
- Lightness: -18
Step 7Now let's adjust the tones. Add a Curves adjustment layer. You can find this in the Adjustments panel (Window > Adjustments) or by going to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves.
Step 8In the Properties panel (Window > Properties), you'll see a graph. Drag the lower-left point towards the middle. This will do two things:
- Lift the shadows to make the blacks gray.
- Crush the shadows to reduce details.
Step 9Now we'll add contrast using the same adjustment.
- Click on the middle of the line to add a point.
- Add another point between the two and drag it down to create an s-curve.