Desaturated High Contrast Effect for Commercial Portraits in Photoshop | Brian Rodgers Jr. South Bend Commercial Photography

hidden Photoshop gem: you can use adjustment layers and simply change the blend mode without having to use the adjustment layer for it’s intended purpose.

In this tutorial I will show you how to get that really cool desaturated high contrast portrait look you see in so many commercial portraits. Now keep in mind, this is only one way to achieve this effect. We start by duplicating the layer twice; press Command + J and Command + J again. Select you first copy (should be your middle layer) and press Shift + Command + U to completely desaturate the layer. Change the opacity of that desaturated layer to 40%. Then turn on your top layer (copy 2) and change the blend mode to soft light (Shift + Option + F). Lastly change the blend mode to about 50% opacity. Keep in mind that each image will be a little different. Now, that’s one way to do it, on to tip #2! 

Tip#2, Now we are going to achieve that same effect using adjustment layers and blend modes. This time, start from your base layer and add a black and white adjustment layer above that. Set the opacity of the black and white adjustment layer to about 40%. Now create a curves adjustment layer above that. Change the blend mode of the curves adjustment layer to Softlight (Shift + Option + F). Now set the opacity of the Softlight adjustment layer to around 50%. Boom, same results achieved. 

So what’s the difference between these two methods? Well, by using adjustment layers instead of duplicating your base layer, you are creating a smaller Photoshop file, thus saving hard drive space. If you have a Photoshop file with a few layers, the first method is just fine. However, when you retouching commercially, chances are, your files will be growing Popeye arms in no time. So working smarter in Photoshop can not only save you time (because your files will run and save faster) you will also save money (takes less hard drive space; consuming less storage and working faster puts more money in your pocket). 


Lastly, this is a hidden Photoshop gem: you can use adjustment layers and simply change the blend mode without having to use the adjustment layer for it’s intended purpose. For example, in this tutorial, I didn’t use the Curves Adjustment Panel to modify the curve in any way shape or form. I simply added the adjustment layer, and used it for a blend mode, which is the same as duplicating a layer and changing the blend mode…the only difference is, adjustment layers are much smaller and rarely add to the size of your Photoshop file. Furthermore, you can use almost any adjustment layer in this manner. You can do the same thing with Bightness/Contrast, Levels, Curves, Exposure, Brightness, Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, Channel Mixer, Color Lookup, & Selective Color, I just tend to stick with curves (personal preference). You may notice that I didn’t mention all of the adjustment layers. Here’s why: When you add a Black and White Adjustment Layer, an effect is automatically applied, you can still change the blend mode, but you cannot use the adjustment layer simply for the blend mode. Same goes for the Photo Filter adjustment layer, as soon as you apply that adjustment layer, it applies an effect automatically, thus changing the image before a blend mode is applied. 

There you have it, two 2 tips in one this week! 

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Brian Rodgers Jr.

Brian Rodgers Jr. is a commercial advertising photographer based in South Bend Indiana. Brian has a wealth of commercial photography experience photographing everything from commercial portraits, RVs, large commercial vehicles, product and food photography, to multi-million dollar mansions. Furthermore, he has created brand images for national companies and his work has been published in various national and international publications including Photoshop User Magazine, Dentaltown Magazine, Incisal Edge Magazine, and the popular web based show "Photography Tips & Tricks" produced by Kelby Media Group to name a few. Brian’s overall body of work demonstrates a real cultivation of skills behind the lens as well as a wide array of cutting edge post production techniques. He provides his clients with exceptional images and ensures customer satisfaction through his relentless work ethic. Brian is not just a photographer, he is an artist. Retouching his own work allows him to deliver a product that reflects his vision as an artist. And his clients are never disappointed in his abilities to produce consistent, compelling images. Fun Fact: He shot his own portrait