Make your photo more expressive with Photoshop

Have you ever seen a photo with absolutely amazing contrast, so real that it seems that it cannot be real? The first thought that arises when looking at such a photo is that it was made in HDR (High Dynamic Range, high dynamic range). But this is not always the case. In today’s lesson you will see that this effect can be achieved using Photoshop tools.

For today’s lesson, the author advises to use the tabletPen Tablet
Wacom firms. But I assure you that everything also turns out well with a mouse. We will not give up an interesting lesson just because we are bezplanshtniki! So, let’s begin!

Here is the final result:

Materials for the lesson:


First, upload a photo of a tiger. Paste it into a new document with dimensions of 1575 pixels per 1055 pixels and a resolution of 300. Expand it slightly, as shown in the picture. Then apply the command Command + I, to invert the image.

Now we have to separate the tiger from the background. We also need to dim the image a little. We will deal with these two things at the same time. To begin with, set black as the background color. We will now erase the excess from our photo.
In order not to spoil it, we will do it on the layer mask. Go to Layer > LayerMask > RevealAll (layer – layer mask – show all). Now everything that you draw with black on the layer mask disappears. If you did something wrong, switch to white and restore the deleted pieces of the image.
It is important that the transparency of the layer during the execution of this work be very small. It is best to choose a transparency of 1-5%, when you paint with a white brush over dark areas, while painting with black, choose a transparency of no more than 10%.

Try to remove the background from the image to the maximum, without affecting the figure of the tiger itself:

Now reduce the size brushes and walk around the contours of the image with a tiger. Try to carefully handle the area with a mustache, because if you erase too much, then it will be difficult to restore:

Now take a big brush and paint the left side of the tiger’s face and the top of its body with black. At the bottom of the torso, also add a bit of dark tone:

Change the foreground color to white and trace the ear area. This time, put 100% transparency.

Go back to black color, reduce the transparency and darken the central part of the ear:

Darken the neck of a tiger, especially paying attention to the stripes. If possible, leave them white:

Now only the head and part of the tiger’s neck are visible. Do not worry, so it should be, everything is going according to plan.

Set the transparency to 1-5%, and process the white areas on the tiger’s chest. Slightly muffle the color, because the tiger’s body should not stand out too much. It should somehow grow out of the background and simultaneously merge with it. Note that the white stripes around the neck of the tiger remain visible to our eyes. So it should be at this stage of work.

Now it looks a little strange, but a couple of correction layers will fix everything at the very end of the lesson.

Now we add chiaroscuro.
First set the base color to white. Draw white stripes on a separate layer. In the same way, switching to black, draw shadows. Try to make lines of different lengths, brightness and thickness. For example, on the canines, the lines should be thinner and brighter, and on the tongue – try to achieve the effect of reflecting light, like mine:

Now draw a white stripe along the tongue. And add some more white in the center of the tongue. Use a small brush for this, about 2 pixels. Reduce transparency. Focus on the texture of the language. Everything should look natural.

Also do on the tips of the canines and a little bit in the center of each canine.

Unfortunately, in order to create the effect of reflecting light on the nose of a tiger, the method just applied will not work for us. We will now draw straight lines on the center of the nose, reduce the transparency and continue to draw in white with circular, rotational movements of the arm:

Do not forget to also add light to the lips and inside of the tiger’s cheek:

See, the nose should stand out well, this is another light accent, so carefully handle all the specified areas:

Set the size of the brush to 1 pixel and still go over the inside of the tiger’s mouth, giving the desired areas greater sharpness:

Do not forget about the top of your head:

Draw light stripes with the same brush with a size of 1 pixel.

Shade the left side of each canine. This will give fangs even more expressiveness.

Add the same shadows to the tiger’s mouth. To increase the sharpness, draw dark stripes parallel to the white stripes and mix them.

Now let’s work with the head of the tiger. Put a brush on 80 pixels and add shadows on the light areas of the head.

And now we will add wool to dark areas. Take a brush of 1 pixel and on a very low transparency (1-5%) draw a thin, wavy line that resembles wool. You will need to repeat this several times. My picture shows how to do it correctly:

Now draw a thin, uneven line on the crown and on the tip of the tiger’s ear:

Our photo looks like this:

At the end we will add some correction layers. First of all, go to Layer > NewAdjustmentLayer > SelectiveColor (layer – new correction layer – selective color). From the drop-down menu, select Black (Blacks) and set the following settings:

Now select Yellow (Yellows) with the following settings:

Add the final correction layer: Gradient Map (GradientMap):

Final result:
Done! See how it happened:


This technique is very versatile. With it, you can process almost any photo. Here is an example of how I handled the portrait of a man. Compare what was at the beginning and what happened at the end:

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