Obviously a photo effect requires a photo. I find this effect works awesome on photos of people, so here’s a photo of this funny looking surfer I know.
With the photo open, lets first make sure our foreground and background colors are set to Black & White by pressing the D key (notice that the swatches at the bottom of the Tools palette have now been reset to their default B&W).
Now lets add a Gradient Mask Adjustment Layer by either selecting it from the Adjustment palette, or by clicking the little half-white/half-black circle at the bottom of the layers palette. This will create a new layer above your photograph in the Layers palette called Gradient Mask and you will notice that the photo has turned Black & White.
To complete the first step in the process, go ahead and change the Layer Blend Mode at the top of the Layers Palette for your Gradient Map layer to Overlay and lower it’s opacity to 50%.
The Gradient Map is now being used to dull the colors, while the Overlay blend mode multiplies the highlights and screens the shadows adding a unique contrast to the image.
The second step in this little lesson is even easier than the first. Click on the layer containing your photo in the Layers palette so that it is selected and from the main menu choose Filter>Sharpen>Smart Sharpen. Depending on your image size, you’ll need to play around here a bit but for the small 540×400 px image I’m using for this tutorial I’m going to use an Amount of 100 and a Radius of 1.0. For larger images you will want to increase the Amount, but I wouldn’t go too much farther over 1.5 or 2.0 with the Radius.
(*note: In the Smart Sharpen dialog box, the adjustment layers above won’t be visible, only the layer you’re sharpening.)
And there you go, in two steps you’ve added a cool grunge, almost HDR effect to an otherwise ordinary photograph.
If it were me… and it is… I would add a layer at the top of the Layers stack, switch to the Brush tool by pressing the B key, choose a large soft-edged round brush from the Brush picker, lower the brush opacity to around 10% and lightly paint a slight vignette into the corners of the photo to darken them and bring more attention into the subject… but that’s just me.
Be careful not to go overboard with this as it can go from cool to overdone in a jiffy.
And that’s it folks. The moral of the story here is that sometimes just plain screwing something up can turn out to be a cool little effect that works on a lot of photos, not just people. Or something like that.
Lesson Files + Additional Resources
Download the free .PSD file and other lesson files Right Here.