Photography tips – Desaturated Colors

Sometimes I’m just finicky.  I’m not sold on the color and black and white seems too stark.  On those occasions I decide to walk the tightrope and veer into the middle ground.  This is the time for color desaturation, which can make your photos take on an antique look.

Step 1 – Defog (Filter -> Sharpen -> Unsharpen Mask 20-60-0)

Step 2 – Curves/Levels Adjustment Layer – big bump in highlights and contrast

Step 3 – Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer – big bump in contrast – erase any areas where the whites get blown and lose detail in both this layer and the curves layer.

Step 4 – Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer – increase overall saturation

Step 5 – Gradient Map (Elements) or Black and White (CS3) Adjustment Layer – reduced opacity (usually around 70%).  Use the Bl ack and White method in CS3 if you have it and really saturate the blacks.

Step 6 – Work the magic…tweak, tweak, tweak.

Step 7 – Unsharp mask (80/1/4) and Flatten Layers

Step 7 – Noiseware, if needed.

What you are trying to do here is bump up the saturation of the colors, add a bit of contrast and then reduce the opacity of the black and white layer to have these show through.   Not all pictures will look good like this, but work on getting those beautiful warm “tones”.   I think pictures that are more heavily shadowed look the best, since with more even lighting you don’t get a lot of contrast.  The pictures I shared on Wednesday were taken as the sun was setting so the lighting was already rather warm.  As in ORANGE.  As in color was just not going to work very well.

On this picture the lighting was cool as we were in the shade in the woods.  I added a warm hue/saturation layer at reduced opacity underneath the black and white layer to create that warmth.

These settings are going to be different for every photo depending on the lighting and amount of shadows.  I suggest you also look at the skintones.  I wanted some of the skin tones to show through so it wasn’t completely gray, but also for it to still be desaturated.  It’s a fine line to walk finding that equilibrium of what looks good.

So, play with this a bit and see what works for you.  Let me know if you have any questions.

I couldn’t help it…I had to add some wings.  This almost looks HDR-ish.

19 Replies to “Photography tips – Desaturated Colors”

  1. First, I really like your new look! Very classy–and that is your art as the background, right? Perhaps you should add blog template design to the list of things you’re talented at. You could make some spare cash doing it for others, even!

    Awesome photo with the wings–has she seen it? Any little girl would be thrilled, I think! Thanks for sharing your method for antiquing photos…so far I’ve only ever run a “vintage” action that I have. I’m trying this today!

  2. Thanks so much! Alissa, yes that is my art as the background, and yes Anya loves her wings. 🙂

  3. love them! i love the antique/vintage-y look lately, so i am looking forward to Thursday!

    i love the new blog design, too! i really like the BIG photo format 🙂

  4. Wowzas! First of all, great work on the new site layout and design! Gorgeous and your custom drawn background pattern is stunning! And the tips for today are great too. I should definitely try it out step by step and see what I get! Love the sun and in-the-woods shot and the last one is just surreal. I love the blue hue on the tutu and those wings look fantastic. You rock!

  5. Like the new Blog. Did you design your own? I recently changed mine, but just within the host sites template I could not find a freebie out there to go the distance. I enjoy that the photos are bigger and better looking and you have the cool site tabs up at the top. Thank you for the photoshop tips, I always learn so much from you.

  6. Thanks for sharing your desat method! I will have to try. I’ve been pretty lazy and just using actions when I want a desat look lately…

    That second picture is my favorite (although those wings on A. are just adorable too)…Love the sun flare!

  7. Love the wings as usual. I’m going to have to try that tutorial this week and see what I come up with. Should be a good tie in with antique. 🙂

    Nice colors in that second image. Love the sun too. Looks like a star making the moment a little magical.

  8. I’m away for a few days, and LOOK what happens! A totally rockin’ new layout. Wow, it looks fab. I love that it features your beautiful art work, and I love your new tagline. You whould add “wonderwoman” to the list, tho. 😉

    Love this method of desaturation, can’t wait to try it. The wings are MAGICAL!

  9. I love the angel picture, it almost has a sureal feel to it. You are so talented with taking the pictures and processing them.

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