I’ve been spotting images all around the web recently with this kind of washed-out look and I love it! It gives images a really nice retro tinge while staying classy and not quite going as extreme as some of the instagram-type filters. I had a bash at comparing originals with filtered images and trying to achieve a similar look in Photoshop, during which I came across a quick way of achieving the look with ‘levels’. You photographers have probably known this for years, but for anyone that might not, here’s how I do it:
Exhibit A: the original photo (one I took in France this year, in fact!). So, step one is to bring up the level panel and bring up the lows, and down the highs to a point where it looks horrible and the blacks are all clashing and running into one big mush and the whites seem to blowing everything out (trust me, everything will be ok, but you might want to keep a copy of your original!)
As you can see, the shadows under the bush have now been crushed to mush… flush. And the white parts like the rock under the sign have lost a bit of clarity. Now we want to bring up the output levels to near where the markers are in the graph above so that all those blobby black sections become a dark grey, and the blobby white sections become a darker tone.
Now we have this rather nice washed out look, which loses a lot of the detail in the lows and highs, but gives a pretty tasty looking retro feel to the image. That’s the basic step, after which you can play with the image colours and more to give it whatever feel you want. Obviously this part will change from image to image so there’s no set formula for colour tweaks.
For this image, I played with the ‘Channel Mixer’ adjustment to throw the colours off a little bit, just going through the ‘Red’ ‘Green’ and ‘Blue’ channels and knocking the values off slightly.U October 9, 2012