Add Dimension to Your Flat Photos-One Post Production Technique

The work flow I employ that is intended for press or print. When shooting in RAW which is always the case, I open an image via Bridge in to PS3 which automatically opens in Adobe Camera Raw. As stated (Now this is an alternative method to the one given at “Pentax Life”) I will sharpen the image at 25 to 35 percent in ACR, Luminance Smoothing “0” and Color Noise reduction at “50”. I generally click OK at this stage, (unless I am way off in my exposure, which if I am, I have to seriously re-consider my chosen profession)

Tetyana Brazhnyk in Outlandish © Benjamin Kanarek

When open in PS3 in 16 bits, I create a Duplicate Layer. Now here is where you can go both ways. (sounds a bit suspect) Depending on what I wish to accomplish in terms of saturation, I will either De-Saturate the image or leave it as a color image. The two are radically different in there outcome. Once I have created the Duplicate Layer, I will go in to the Layers Menu “TAB” and click on Normal which will open a large choice of different options. I will “Click” on “Soft Light”. When doing so and dependent on the contrast of the image, you will notice a radical increase in contrast and saturation if you left the original image in color. Generally with my stuff and I say generally as it totally depends on the lighting I have employed, I will set the “Opacity” and “Fill” sliders from 50 to 85 percent each. Once I am satisfied with the result, I will flatten the image, as it is not yet ready for re-touch, this is a pre-retouch manipulation that I do on every image in preparation for the Post Production retouch. Once in PS, I will in many cases use the Shadow Highlight tool  at my Default setting being,

Amount 2%
Tonal Width 50%
Radius 30%

Amount 2%
Tonal Width 50%
Radius 30%

Color Correction +20 Mid-tone 0

It may change dependent on the conditions.

Now, if the “Duplicate Layer” I made used the “De-saturation” process, after I have flattened the layer, I might augment the overall Saturation by 10 to 20 %. If I wish to keep the image with “That” desaturated look I may do nothing. It depends on the effect I am looking for.

If I did not use the “De-saturation” process and left the “Layer” in color, I may “De-saturate’ the overall image by 10 to 20%.

If I do not sharpen in PS, I will do the following for a more “RADICAL” look. After I have imported in to PS from ACR, I will Unsharp Mask (Accentuate) from 120 to 330 percent at 0.3 pixels and I will Unsharp Mask again at 10 to 15% at 40 to 60 pixels to really “POP” the contrast. I will go to “Shadow Highlight” and do the required manipulations to compensate for a loss of shadow detail.

I am now ready for the “Retouch Artist”

When retouch is done and up-sized if necessary, I will sharpen again at 100 to 180 percent at 0.3 pixels.

Here is an addendum to my workflow method followed by the original. Please note that this is NOT carved in stone and can be modified:

Another approach I use and am doing on the “Diva” story is this…

When the Raw image has been imported in to Camera Raw, I Sharpen at between 25-30 on the slider and 50 on Color Noise Reduction, Luminance Smoothing at Zero. Click OK.

When in Photoshop, go to Layers and make a Duplicate Layer. Now Desaturate the image. Go to the Layers Menu and click on Soft Light. Now, because you didn’t use the Contrast Unsharp move, i.e. 10-15 percent at 40-60 pixels you can push the Opacity and Fill sliders much harder. 60 to 90 percent. When back in PS you can now push up your overall Saturation if so desired by +5 to +10 to compensate in the loss of Saturation produced by adding the B&W layer. I don’t, I like that Desaturated look. It’s a matter of taste..

About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…
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  • @:

    I have been asked on several occasions to do a workshop or two but haven’t had the time. Thanks none the less.

    Best Wishes

  • Heinz Schmidt

    Hi Ben,

    Thank you for the workflow, it really does give us very valuable insight into how you get such ‘clean’ images with great color tone and sharpness.

    I’ve sure that 90% of the magic of your images actually occur in camera, when you are shooting.

    Can I be cheeky and ask if you would do a blog post on how you do your lighting?

    I dream of one day being able to attend a workshop held by you on fashion photography. Any plans for a fashion workshop in future?


  • Calvin

    The title of this post was very misleading. How is desaturating an image supposed to give it more “dimension” ? Your title suggests that you’re adding depth through some other technique, which is not the case.

  • jen

    wow just want to say i’ve found a lot of photographer websites and blogs but yours is not only fashion related but so incredibly helpful! thank you so much!

  • sandra742

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  • Eric

    Have you ever tried sharpening with the high pass method?

    Create a duplicate layer, select Filter -> Other -> High Pass (on duplicate layer)

    I Usually set it to around 25

    Then select soft light in the layers panel. From what I can tell this does a heck of a job sharpening. What’s your Professional opinion of this technique?

  • @:

    That’ll do 🙂

  • Andy

    How about a Molson XXX, thats all I have in the fridge. 🙂

  • @:

    Send me a Molsons Golden and then we can talk 🙂

  • tom

    I tried this technique on one of my raw pics…… GASP!

    Hurry up and give us even more simple and effective tips PLEASE!

    I’m hooked on your blog now!

  • Irena Leite

    Nice description.. I am curious to see how your PP works on my images.. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Jim

    Shame about the ‘before’, it would have made the article a lot more useful.

  • I never post my “Before” shots…Sorry.

  • Joe from Minnesota

    LR isn’t really an editing program… there is nothing in it which approximates anything like a soft light layering. (which is a shame, because if it had that, I’d be able to remove about 90% of my remaining PS use)

    Benjamin, do you have a before/after of this effect by any chance?

  • Thanks for sharing this! I’m curious if the same sort of effect can be achieved using Lightroom, as I find it faster to use and doesn’t require as much disk space as importing into Photoshop as a TIFF/PSD.

    • Hi Andy;

      I have never used lightroom, so I cannot answer your question.


    • No. Because you cannot combine two images in such way as “soft light” in Lightroom.