Photography tips – The “300” look

Anna at Hank and Willie actually asked about this on the I Love Photography forums, so this is really her idea.  She asked about how to desaturate a cool photo, which is essentially what they did in the movies “300”.  She got a bunch of ideas from other photographers and I had to try it!  It’s a different way to process them, but it’s fun to try different things (at least I think so!).

By the way, I love the movie “300” – the cinematography is so incredibly cool!  I wouldn’t let the kids watch it for the violence and blood spray but it’s like an animated graphic novel…only with real people (with incredibley ripped abs!).

I would like to show you the original, but I was a bit looped when I when I wrote this tutorial and saved over it.  You see the ladies just left after bunco and it’s midnight on Friday night.  I hope you understand.  😉

Oh, wait…I could get the original back!  Don’t mind me…just some live drunk blogging going on here…“hick!”


300-ized photo:



1.  Defog

2.  Adjustment Layer -> Hue/Saturation.  Use the middle slider (-75) and desaturate the color in the photo.   Flatten layers.

3.  Burn the shadows.  In this shot I avoided his eyes, since they were already shadowed.  Select the burn tool (“O”) and change to shadows on the task bar, and set opacity under 20%.

4.  Adjustment Layer -> Hue/Saturation (0,-25,0).  Use the middle slider and desaturate the color in the photo a little more, as the burning brings out the color again.    Flatten layers.

5.  Duplicate layer (ctrl J).  Select the top layer and go to Filter -> Distort -> Diffuse Glow.  Lower the opacity of this layer until it looks good.  An alternative is if you have the Virtual Photographer plugin.  Use the “Halo” effect.  Again, lower the opacity of this layer to around 15-20%.  Flatten layers.

6.  Using either curves or levels (41, 1.51, 205), move the sliders to bring the highlights out a bit.    Flatten layers.

7.  Sharpen and all done!

Here’s another example:

 another example

15 Replies to “Photography tips – The “300” look”

  1. Great theme – hopefully I can find some signs of spring to shoot…

    I love desaturated photos – probably because that is one of the few things in photoshop that I actually know how to do!

  2. looks like a new challenge. I’ve been known to desaturate a photo or two, but have never done the rest…..see you thurs.

  3. If you have Lightroom there’s a free preset you can get with this look. I haven’t found a photo that I think works with it yet! But these are great. Drinking wine right now too…he he!

  4. I have desaturated my share of photos, but never done the burning and diffuse glow! It should be fun to play with that. Fun effect – and it works SO well on that photo of Kai.

    How did you get the sooc image back? I’m bad about saving over the top of my pictures….also, I’m working with PS Elements 2.0 and it tends to strip my Exif data if I crop or do certain other edits. Any idea why this is happening and how I can get around it?? thanks!

  5. Hmmm. I’ve never seen this “300” movie, but I do like the look of these photos. Thanks!

    And, glad you had a good evening. Sounds like fun 🙂

  6. Spring keeps teasing us. We’ve had upper 70’s and them BAM 40’s on the golf course last week.

    I always appreciate your tutorials. You make it so simple for me. Thanks. I’ll be trying this.

  7. Thanks ladies!

    Christina, In PS you can have the “undo history” in your right side palette bar. It shows all the things that you have done to your photo, with the original at the top. It only shows a certain number of the edits, but the original is always at the top. After I saved over the original, I remembered that I could just click on the original in that box and save it as the original again. 🙂

  8. Wow, love! I’d seen this technique before but never knew what it was called. I’m soooo going to try this out! Thank you!

  9. I love the pictures! This is right up my alley, I loved 300 too!

    Ooh, this will be fun. Hmm which pictures to take and use. I fell out of the loop for the last week, been busy, had internet problems, lots of blogs to catch up on!

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