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Photoshop Compositing Tricks

Instant nostalgia: pushing and bleach bypass By Dave Nagel
More and more these days I'm getting requests from users for techniques for aging and distressing photos and for adding a film look to their images. I've already shown you some ways to add wear, tear, scratches and stains to digital photos. So this time around, we'll take a different approach, one that will give digital images a nostalgic film quality by simulating two photolab processes: pushing film and bypassing the bleach stage.

A bleach bypass is, as its name implies, the bypassing the bleach stage in the development process, leaving silver on the negative. The result is akin to overlaying a black and white image on a color image.  "Pushing" is when you set the ISO on your camera to a higher speed than the film is rated at, resulting in an underexposed image. In the development stage, the pushed film is processed to correct the exposure, resulting generally in an image with more grain and a higher contrast. When we simulate these two processes together digitally, we can create that oft-sought nostalgic feel and (hopefully) turn a mediocre photo into something worth looking at.

This entire effect involves one or two of Photoshop's built-in filters, which, in and of themselves, do nothing useful for our image. The real effect comes through via clever compositing. Here's how it works. Steps 1 through 7 explain the film push effect, while step 8 addresses the more simple bleach bypass simulation.

1. Color mode. To begin, make sure you're in RGB color mode (Image > Mode > RGB) rather than Lab.

2. Duplicate the background. Duplicate your background layer by dragging it over the "New Layer" icon in the Layers palette.

3. Hue/Saturation. Then apply a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to to the duplicate (Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation). Make sure you check the option labeled "Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask." This will ensure that only the duplicate layer is affected by the adjustment layer.

Then crank up the saturation of your image. For my example, I'm boosting it to "+67" on the Master. The amount you use will vary with the image. Try it out at 67. If you don't like it in the end, you can always make further saturation adjustments. I chose +67 because it brings out some artifacts in my image, but doesn't quite begin to create artifacts that are too blocky.

And here's the result.

Nothing you'd want to stare at too long, so let's move on.

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Related Keywords:adobe photoshop, aged photo, bleach bypass, pushing film, film look, film grain, nostalgic photo effect


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