Photoshop Effect: Gritty Dramatic Look

A Photoshop effect can help create a very effective gritty, dramatic look. This is a rather vague goal to present, so this is merely one of the many routes you can take to add intensity to your photos.

Step 1: Adding the Grit

"Grit" can be defined as one of many things, but in this process, it essentially means grain. So, first duplicate your "Background" layer twice by going to "Layer" and choosing "Duplicate Layer".  In order to see these first changes, you need to deselect the top layer from view by clicking the eye next to it. Now, click on the first copy, which should be immediately above the "Background". Go to "Filter", select "Other", and apply a "High Pass".  When the window comes up, lower the radius to about half of what it was before. Somewhere around a 5 works well. Then, find the "Blend Mode" drop down in the layer window and set it to "Overlay".  

Step 2: Mellowing the Colors

Color will interfere with the drama of the effect, so we will dampen it. Return to the top layer that was previously made invisible. To view it, click on the box to make the eye reappear. Go to "Image", "Adjustments and "Desaturate". Then, change this layer's blend mode to "Hard Light".  Already, the photo should look dramatic. Merge all the layers by going to "Layer" and selecting "Flatten Image".

Step 3: Solidifying the Grit

Your photo can probably still withstand more from this effect. (We will more or less repeat step 1.)  Duplicate your flattened background image. Apply this new layer with the same "High Pass" effect as before with the same "Overlay" blend mode. Then, once again flatten the image.

Step 4: Increasing the Contrast

Create a new adjustment layer by clicking on the ying-yang looking icon in the layer window.  Select "Curves".  When the window pops up, make sure you can see how your photo will respond to the adjustments. You should pull upwards on a point near the top of the line and downwards on a point near the bottom of the line. This step will vary from photo to photo, so make your best judgement. Once you are satisfied, hit OK.

Step 5: Fine Tuning

There may be a few spots that have gotten lost in the filters. These can be revived with the "Layer Mask Thumbnail" that already exists on your Curves layer. Hit Ctrl+I to invert the mask. The mask will now be black, so set the foreground color to white in the "Tool Palette".  Choose the paintbrush tool and a soft-edged brush. Paint over any areas that you want to pull out of the confusion. Now you should have a very intense version of your original photo.

Drama and grit are always up for interpretation, so keep your wits about you when you go through the process. With the right levels of adjustment, the end result will heighten the mood of your image.

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