In this tutorial we will create a dramatic portrait effect In Photoshop adjustment layers and blending modes. We will treat the shadows and highlights separately in different layers using the Levels adjustment to obtain the desired contrast. It’s an easy photoshop tutorial and the effect is not hard to achieve. At the end I will show you an easy way to get a old photo effect in Photoshop.
Faded B/W portrait effect (final result)
How to create a cinematic portrait effect in Photoshop
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Step 1 – Separate Shadows & Highlights
To achieve this black and white cinematic effect I duplicate the original photo twice, one for lights and one for the darks and I’ve created two Levels adjustment layers as clipping mask for each copy.
Step 2 – Adjust Contrast
Change the blending mode of the darks layer to Soft Light and increases contrast enough with the levels (see video for details). Open levels of the lights layer and reduces the contrast using the output levels.
Step 3 – Black & White
Create a Black and White adjustment layer above all the layers and use the sliders to slightly increase the contrast of the picture.
Step 4 – The Faded Effect
To create the faded black and white effect in Photoshop I used the Exposure adjustment layer with an Offset of +0.0182 and Gamma Correction 1.03 . These values should work fine for most photos but use the settings you see appropriate for your photo.
Step 5 – Film Grain
Create a new layer and fill it with 50% gray from Edit > Fill and then change the blending mode of this layer to Soft Light . Now add 25% Noise , Uniform and Monochromatic . If you want to reduce the amount of noise in the highlights you can use a layer mask . Apply a Gaussian Blur of 0,5px to the noise to make it more similar to film grain .
In the video you will see how to use Apply Image to create a layer mask and isolate the shadows and lights. An easier way is to use a soft brush with a low opacity to remove noise from the unwanted parts.
Step 6 – Color Tint
I used a Color Balance layer to give a subtle touch of color to the portrait. I used the settings shown in the photo below.
Step 7 – Old Photo Effect
To create the effect of an old photo in Photoshop, all you need is a dirty paper texture or slightly wrinkled. I used a photo that I found on deviantart (link above) but if it’s unavailable you can use any similar texture.
I pasted the texture on a new layer and I inverted it with the Ctrl + I keys and desaturated with Shift+Ctrl+U. Then to remove the black background I changed the blend mode of the layer to Screen and have set the Opacity .