PWL is a popular way to enhance your photos by manipulating the appearance of the lighting – it can be used on any kind of shot (portrait, landscape, fashion, product etc) to make the image look punchier. Darker blacks, brighter highlights and richer colours can all be achieved using PWL techniques. And there are almost as many different methods for achieving PWL effects as there are retouchers who use them, but most have one thing in common – hard graft.
Most techniques involve a shadow layer, a highlight layer and masks to place the shading precisely where the artist wants it to fall. These techniques give precision and control and produce amazing results in the right hands – but what if your hands arent the right hands? Well then this technique is for you. It does not have the control or artistry of conventional techniques but it is fast and easy. Its no substitute for years of study and practice but sometimes you just dont have that long.
This tutorial aims to show you how to give the illusion of PWL in 30s. (Time results may very)
So this is our starting image – its already fairly nice – but it could look edgier.
1.First duplicate the original twice (just for safe keeping, you only actually need 1 dupe for the process) and place it on the top of your layer stack.
2.Set the blend mode of your duplicate to 'Overlay' – blend modes are found at the top of your layer palette. Select the top layer then click on the drop down list at the top and select 'overlay'.
3. Now we have a contrasty image with rich, saturated colours. But for most images this is just a bit too contrasty and saturated to look nice and the highlights are completely blown out.
4.Keeping your overlay layer selected, go to Filter -> Other -> Highpass
At a low radius you will see that your image is back to looking like your original – though you may notice its a little sharper (for those that care how it works, I'll explain later)
5.If you slide the radius all the way to the left you will see that preview window is completely grey, if you slide all the way to the right, you'll see that it looks like a darker version of your original – but we want to find a point in between.
6.You've already seen that a low radius sharpens the edges of the image, however if you go a little higher you'll notice that the changes to the image go beyond sharpening. Taking it up to 10 you should start to notice the shadows darken and the highlights brighten.
7. At 10
9. At 30
10. At 40
Finding the right radius depends on the image and the intended outcome. For this image I would say between 10 and 20 is about right. The best way to demonstrate this effect is just to try it yourself and watch how the light shifts as you raise and lower the highpass radius.
Once you've settled on your radius you can mask out any areas that you're not happy with and that all there is to it.
Its not the real thing but its a quick trick that can add a bit of punch to your photos.
How it works?
At 0 radius the highpass filter just converts your image to 50% grey.
If you overlay a 50% grey layer over an image there will be no difference. Overlay is a combination of multiply and screen blending modes – thats what gives the very constrasty look – in basic terms the lights get lighter and the darks get darker. 50% grey is completely in the middle so it has no affect on the underlying layer.
When we increase the radius of the highpass, parts of the original image start to show through the grey, bleeding out from the edges of the image, the higher the radius, the more of the image that shows through. The 50% grey parts preserve the original image and the overlay only affects the edges – how thick you define those edges depends on the radius.