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Monday, March 23, 2009

The Gritty Portrait

Using hard light and postproduction to re-create a popular “edgy” look

This Article Features Photo Zoom

The last step in creating a gritty portrait is using software in the computer to enhance the effect we’ve created by our lighting. A photographer known for pioneering this look is Dave Hill, and numerous online blogs devote pages to deciphering his technique. Rather than duplicate his exact style, I prefer a toned-down version for my final image. I want to add some contrast and grit to my shot, but not push it toward the cartoonish look some photographers prefer. There are three different techniques I use to create this contrasty look.

The simplest and quickest way is using LucisArt 3 ED (www.lucisart.com), a plug-in for Photoshop. This software instantly applies the gritty effect I like using two simple sliders.
1. Duplicate the pixel layer.
2. Apply LucisArt 3 ED to this layer, setting Enhance Detail to around 90 and Mix with Original Image to about 50 percent. This gives the image a nice, gritty look.
3. If I feel like reducing the effect later, I change the Opacity of this duplicate pixel layer to around 50 percent until I like the effect.

The second technique to achieve this look uses tools in Photoshop:
1. Duplicate the pixel layer.
2. Use the High Pass Filter on this layer at a Radius of 6 (for high-res images). Change the Blending mode of this layer to Linear Light and evaluate the effect.
3. Add a new layer to the top of the layer stack and fill it with gray. Change the Blending mode of this layer to Overlay.
4. Go to Filters > Noise > Add Noise and choose a setting of 10.
5. Add a mask to this layer. Using a soft-edged brush at an Opacity of around 20 percent, brush out the noise (use black as your foreground color) on your subject. This leaves the model sharp and edgy, and the background gritty.

The last technique is done in Adobe Lightroom. Scott Kelby presented this method in his blog (www.scottkelby.com). It’s a great approach if you use Lightroom.
1. In the Develop module, in the Basic panel, use these settings: Recovery—100; Fill Light—100; Contrast—100; Clarity—100; and Vibrance—100.
2. Move the Blacks slider to the right until the milky effect created by the Fill Light slider is balanced out.
3. Experiment with the Saturation (try desaturating the image) and Exposure sliders until you get the effect you want.


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