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Post Production Technique

to Add Dramatic Bleach Bypass Effect in a Few Minutes

Many people asked me how we created this effect (some call it “HDR-ish”, but there is not much from actual HDR in it). Let me, Alex Koloskov, briefly explain here how this can be achieved.


1. The shooting technique

The idea is simple: to slightly overexpose the foreground and slightly underexpose the background in one shot. I achieve this by using on-camera speedlite strobe (Canon 580EX II in my case, but any other will work as well) and dialing Flash exposure compensation to +1EV (+-0.5EV) and dialing ambient exposure compensation to -1EV (+-0.5Ev).

Doing this allows the camera to capture things like a vivid blue sky even on slightly overcast days and have more contrast on everything by slightly underexposing the shot.
On the other hand, additional power for a filling light (the strobe) adds brightness for anything in the foreground and visually separates the subjects from the background.

For all the shots below I’ve used the Canon 8-15mm F4.0L fisheye lens, and extremely wide viewing angle requires to have a diffuser on the flash (The 580EX has a built-in one, which is appreciated a lot:-)

Shooting Mode : Av (aperture priority), which means strobe works as a filling light.

To see what this technique let me get out of the camera check the ‘before” images below.


2. Post Production

For creating such images I used Adobe Photoshop and Color Efex Pro plugin.

Below is a step by step detailed description of the necessary steps:

Example #1

This is the photo with Adobe Camera RAW Default settings:

1. Convert the image in Adobe Camera RAW. These are my ACR settings:

As you see on the picture I am trying to pull up the maximum amount of details from the image as possible. Of course, every image has slightly different ACR settings (true for all of the rest of the adjustments), and this is your task to find the best settings for the particular image. Please use this guide as a reference, not as user manual;-)

2. Apply Color Efex Pro Bleach Bypass plugin:

Then I added a White Mask, chose a Black Soft Brush (opacity about 60%), and painted over the sky to get back details and the color of the sky.

3. Merge all visible layers -> Command/Opt/Shift +E for Mac or Ctrl/Alt/Shift +E for PC.

Go to Menu/Image/Adjustments/Shadows/Highlights…

4. Add Contrast using Levels Adjustment Layer:

5. Dodge and Burn:

– Create two Curves Adjustment Layers as shown on the picture below:

– Hide these layers (Ctrl+I for PC/ Command+I for Mac)
– Pick up the White Soft Brush with very low Opacity (about 6-10%) and paint over the Layer “Curves 1″ to illuminate parts of the image, and paint over the Layer “Curves 2″ where you want to add shadows. Change the size of the brush when needed.

This is how my masks look:

This is the final image:


Example #2, the same steps as before:

Original image:

1. Adobe Camera Raw:

2. Apply Color Efex Pro Bleach Bypass plugin:

3. Correct shadows and highlights

Go to Menu/Image/Adjustments/Shadows/Highlights…

The Final image:

Now re-size and sharpen for web. I suggest to use this Action for sharpening for web.

Hope this will help you learn the technique. Remember that I show you my way to do this, and I am sure there are several ways to achieve a similar effect. Do not limit yourself, go ahead and experiment with settings and you’ll develop a technique which will work the best for you.

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