Turning colour images into black and white is a sure-fire way to add immediate impact. However, a simple Black & White adjustment is rarely enough to do the job and further tweaks are needed to add that finishing touch.
Here we will look at a simple way to give a silver finish to your shots, which helps to define contours on the skin, as well as add a pleasing glow. It’s not a technique that is limited to portraits, though it suits skin nicely, but landscapes can also be lifted and given atmosphere through the same effect.
We’ll be using multiple duplicate layers with the Black & White adjustment as a starting point, then moving on to a High Pass layer, followed by a Gaussian Blur to emulate the effect that we’re after. A quick tweak with the Curves will finishes things off nicely.
There are plug-ins that are dedicated to creating this sort of effect, but if you don’t have the money or the inclination to purchase one of these, then give this a try and it might just give you the results that you need.
Open your portrait image and duplicate the Background layer. On the duplicate layer, go to Image>Adjustments>Black & White. From the Preset drop-down menu, select Maximum Black and hit OK to apply to your image. Go to Image> Adjustments>Brightness/Contrast and pull the Brightness up slightly to 10.
Duplicate your Black & White adjusted layer, and then run the High Pass filter (Filter> Other>High Pass). You need to tweak the Radius slider to a point that brings out the most detail for your image. We needed a Radius of 40 for this image. Hit OK and then set the whole layer to Overlay blending mode.
Duplicate your High Pass adjusted layer and run a Gaussian Blur. Adjust the Radius slider to get a nice halo of white around the details to add to the effect – we used a Radius of 10. Make sure that this layer is also set to Overlay and lower the Opacity to 50%. Add a Curves adjustment layer and push the curve up to bring out the silvery tones.