1/250th of a sec | f/5.6 | 300mm | ISO 1600
A popular effect in many casual portraits is the washed-out or desaturated look. Taking cues from high fashion photography, people tend to look more attractive as the facial features get even and blown out while retaining a high contrast with their eyes, clothes, and background elements. The difference is in the deliberate heavy-handed approach – you’re not trying to play a photo trick here, you’re making an obvious change to your photo’s look.
1/200th of a sec | f/5.0 | 180mm | ISO 1100
This effect works best for me when making outdoor photos, and depending on the feel I’m going for, the color of the sunlight and the time of year determines the best course of action. For a bright sunny day, where the grass is green and the flowers are blooming, it’s best to use directional sunlight in the morning or late afternoon and put the subject between you and the sun. The back-light will give a warm yellow halo effect around your subject (make sure to use spot metering to expose for your subject’s face, because matrix metering will be way off when shooting into the sun).
For winter photos, shooting on an overcast day will naturally give you a cold blue color temperature to match the dead grass and barren trees. In the shots here, I was deliberately going for photos that feel like winter in the south. Sure, the temperature was really warm for January when I took these, but the environment and color still help define these as winter/fall shots. The key here is reign in the yellow grass so that it’s no longer a warm yellow. I started the two shots above using Nik Color Efex Pro’s Bleach Bypass. I made more use of the effect’s local contrast slider more than anything else in the plugin. After I did that, I brought the photo back into Adobe Lightroom and performed some tweaks to maximize the effect as detailed below.
What if you don’t have Nik Color Efex Pro? You can still get similar results using just the basic tools available in Lightroom or Aperture. This shot of my daughter was created without the use of the Bleach Bypass filter. It is less dramatic, but for her I didn’t particularly like the hardness of the filter.
1/200th of a sec | f/5.0 | 170mm | ISO 1600
You can see that I needed to be a bit more heavy-handed with my Lightroom basic adjustments without the use of Bleach Bypass:
In the shot below, I used a different approach which resulted in a much warmer effect because I wanted to have contrast between the pavement and the grass. Although it’s more saturated than the other photos, it still has that grainy high contrast and desaturated feel to it. Another factor that is more of a way of exploiting your lenses shortcomings is to shoot at a high ISO. Depending on the lighting, this can give your shots a graininess that looks quite gritty. I’m pretty sure if I was shooting these with faster glass, I would have chosen to add the grain in later to taste, but since I wasn’t, I chose to take advantage of the high ISO look (and by take advantage, I mean I didn’t have much of a choice).
1/200th of a sec | f/4.8 | 140mm | ISO 800