How I Retouched this Dark Self-Portrait in 2 Simple Steps

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This shot is lit only with the two lighters, so I used a higher ISO and slower shutter speed. The camera that I used, a Nikon D300S, doesn't have the best noise reduction at high ISOs compared to today's top cameras, so I didn't want to crank the ISO too high either. What I got straight out of camera is interesting, but I wanted to tweak the colors and make it even darker.

Before / After:

1- Levels adjustment:

First, we’ll use a Levels adjustment to make the darks even darker:

  • Create a Levels adjustment layer.
  • Move the black point slightly to the right, to bring even more darks in the shadows and almost fully hide the shirt. Here I used a value of 10.
  • Also move the white point slightly to the left, just to brighten up the visible parts of the face and hands. Here I used a value for the white point of 225.

2- Hue/Saturation Adjustment:

Finally, we’ll give a blue and desaturated tint to everything except the fire from the lighters:

  • Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
  • Check the Colorize checkbox, and then play with the Saturation and Hue until you get something you like. Here I chose a Saturation of 25 and a hue of 228.
  • Now click on the layer mark that’s associated with the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and use a black paint brush to mask out the Hue/Saturation adjustment around the lighters and let the original color through.

🌄 Image info:

  • Camera: Nikon D300S
  • Focal length: 16mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/10s
  • Aperture: f/10
  • ISO: 1250

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