Photoshop: Creating a Look

Up until recently, I’ve just been tinkering with Photoshop and not really knowing what I want to achieve from it when editing an image. My style is changing and I’m now starting to think more about my images and “the look” I’m going for when taking the photographs. I guess it’s something you develop over time with your shooting skills, lighting knowledge, editing work, etc. Learning and experimenting is what I’ve found is making me a better photographer.

A recent photo shoot with Amber really made everything come together and resulted in a strong image which I’m proud of. I thought about the shoot, weeks in advance. I studied locations and performed lighting tests. It also came together in my post processing work because I had pre-visualised the end result. It was just a matter of using Photoshop in a way to get the result I wanted. Here’s my journey on how I got there with this slightly over the top, stylised fashion image.


Set in an abandoned house. Very grungy and dirty. I want to bring this look into the final image. Two light sources in this shot, 1) an octo-box set 45 degrees left of the subject, and 2) the light coming in from the window. I used a strobe so I could lower the ambient light and reduce the amount of light flowing in from the window.

I set a green gel onto the strobe in the soft-box and then colour balanced my White Balance settings on the camera to this light. This ensured that any light falling onto the subject would be correct, but any other light would give off a magenta hue (opposites in the colour space). This would give a mysterious undertone to the image… I hoped.

Abandoned House

Abandoned House

Having a knowledge of Photoshop definitely helps. Being able to visualise what you want to achieve is one thing, but being able to produce it is another thing. I’m a big believer in getting things as close to the end result as possible in camera is a great start. I’ve become a fan of post editing to finish off the look I want to achieve. The big lesson is, don’t go over the top. Keep your changes subtle and come back to your images hours, days and even weeks later. You can be editing for hours and think you have a work of art only to open the image up the next day to say, “what was I thinking with the saturation!”.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to continue this idea of creating a look and introduce some Photoshop techniques to help with your images.