I have used Gradient Map before to emulate Lomographic type images. The Gradient Map can be applied as an adjustment layer and as an adjustment layer it can be re-edited if necessary. The gradient map works by applying a gradient against the tones of your image. The gradient is applied left to right with the tones on the left being the shadow and the tones on the right being the highlight. Wherever you find a tone in the image it will now correlate with a tone in the gradient. Gradient maps can be used to create very stylized images from black and white, where you can manipulate the transition from black to white. With a colour gradient you can be very creative in making adjustments and adjusting the colours in the image.
I started with an image that I applied a basic edit in Lightroom and then exported it to Photoshop.
Next I created a levels adjustment clipping the shadows slightly to try and add a small amount of contrast.
Now I added the Gradient Adjustment I used a dark green for the shadows and then a lighter green for the midtone shadows and a creamy yellow for midtone highlights/highlights. I used these colours because they worked well with the colours that were present in the image. Also having a light colour tone in the midtone highlights and highlights will brighten this portion of the image and create a little bit more colour contrast.
I set the blending to overlay.
The shadows still feel slightly heavy so I added a colour fill layer with a deep blue and applied the blending mode lighten to soften the shadows.
I wanted to darken the sides of the image and added a vignette above the original image and below levels adjustment I made at the start.
I vignette I created in my normal way, by creating a new layer filling it black. I Select the whole image using Crtl + A and modified the border by 200px by going select – modify – border, then modified the feather the same way by 200px. With the selection active I created a layer mask and the selection is applied as a layer mask. I change the blending mode to multiply and modified the feather a little more using the properties window. I duplicated this layer and changed the blending to overlay.
The colours at this point are a little intense so I group all the layers except the background layer and then reduce the opacity to 70% where they felt more natural. I then sharpened the image using the High pass filter. I did this by duplicating the background layer and applying the high pass filter with a setting of 10 and then set the blending to soft light.
The image looked ok but it needed one more finishing touch. I added an old film border to the image and then created a curves adjustment to darken the highlights slightly to bring more definition to the clouds and darken the shadows mainly the vignette so it blended with the boarder nicely.
The final image does have a stylized feel to it, with a slightly limited colour palette and with the soft blacks the image does feel slightly aged as well and the border helps too with this.
Has the workflow improved the image? I would say yes, as the image was quite flat and plain and using the workflow it has added a new dimension to it.
Do you use gradient maps at all in your workflow? Or are you now intrigued about using them. Let me know what you think about the image.