Feb
14

Solarise your images – Photoshop tutorial

by
Matt Bennett

You can achieve great solarised nude images in a matter of minutes with these three simple steps


Before
Before
After
After

Throughout the history of photography, the solarise method had been used by a variety of photographers and artists. Solarisation is when the image recorded is partially – or in some cases wholly – reversed in tone and produces a beautiful silver shimmering effect.

Man Ray perfected this technique in the Twenties and Thirties, so for some inspiration take a look at his incredible body (no pun intended) of work.

The technique works best on portraiture or nude images, and studio setups with a dark background will be more effective.

In the analogue days, the technique was much more hit or miss and experimental; however, in a digital context solarisation is very simple to achieve using Photoshop and the layers adjustment curves methods.

Before you start, it’s worth bearing in mind that plain backgrounds and images with form and structure work best – if there is too much distraction or too many complicated patterns the results will suffer.

Step 1 – Open and adjust the image

Step 1
Step 1

Open your image in Adobe Photoshop. If the image is in colour you will have to adjust it to black and white. The simplest way to do this is to go to the Layer menu then click New Adjustment Layer > Black & White and tweak the contrast so you have definition between the highlights and shadows,

Step 2 – Select curves

Step 2
Step 2

Go to Layer> New Adjustment Layer>Curves and, using the pencil tool (which can be found below the small graph), hold down the Shift key and draw and upside-down V shape. Start at the left-hand side of the graph, then go to the top and down to the right-hand corner. It should like the example here.

Step 3 – Experiment

Step 3
Step 3

Open another image adjustment layer and make any final contrast adjustments with the Curves tool. This time use the standard setting. You’ll find that the results vary between images, but ones that work best will have a strong contrast to begin with. The Dodge and Burn tools will also come in handy to finish off any final tweaks.

 

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