Colour Grading Photos: How you can create a bleach bypass look

Using colour grading techniques "borrowed" from the film industry we can use Photoshop to enhance our own photos. We have previously covered using, hue, saturation and exposure as well as simulating the time of day. This week we look at how we can achieve one of the most popular looks, popularised by Saving Private Ryan, the bleach bypass look. Blue Hills Biker, 2011: Bleach Bypass Look

I have applied this look to a shot I took of the Blue Hills Rally earlier this year. The original has had nothing done, other than minor colour correction.

Blue Hills Biker, 2011

To create this look we first want to increase the contrast of the image and for the sake of simplicity I will use a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer. You are more than welcome to use what ever method you prefer. Add the adjustment layer and increase the contrast as much as you can get away with. Don't worry about clipping the highlights or shadows, we are applying a look, not colour correcting. As you can see below, I have cranked my contrast right up to 100.

The second adjustment Layer we will use is a Black & White layer. Adding this layer will make the image black and white (as the name suggests) but if we now slide back the layer opacity, we restore some of the colour to the image. In the image (top) I set the layer opacity (you can find this in the top right corner of the layers panel) to 67%. We could have used a Hue/Saturation adjustment here instead of the Black & White adjustment, but the Black & White adjustment has an advantage of the Hue/Saturation adjustment. Once you apply this effect, you can then use the colour sliders in the Adjustment Panel to increase or decrease the brightness of the different colours in the image. For example, I pushed the yellow slider to the right slightly, increasing their brightness.

Contrast Adjustment for Bleach Bypass Look

Black & White Adjustment for Bleach Bypass Look

As you can see with two simple adjustment layers, we can create a striking Bleach Bypass Look. Next week we will look at another popular look from the cinema.