Photoshop Sunday; Inspired by Andrzej Dragan

I was flicking through my Photoshop recipe note book and saw an old recipe back from 2005 and really wanted to try it again. The title of the recipe was Andrzej Dragan.

This style of image was over used many years ago and could described as HDR for portraits, The over processed feel of the image was taken even more to the extreme with actions and presets that were applied with out any customisation for the image. Personally I think there is something in going through each step and tailoring the effect to each image and even looking at Andrzej Dragan’s images the style can be seen across his images but they don’t all look the same.

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Andrzej Dragan is a polish photographer as well as being a physicist. He has been known as a photographer since 2003 and uses his own digital photo process called “retouching light” . The real Dragan effect is created by using a special lighting set up and then in post  applying basic manipulation of colour and tone as well as special brushes to make the lighting effect more distinctive.
Dragan’s photos are known to be provocative, shocking and controversial and has been the cinematographer for advertising campaigns for converse and play.


For my version of this effect I had to do it all in Photoshop. I once again used my self portrait composite as I thought it would work well for this type of image. I first stripped down the previous edit and saved a base file before starting editing.

  1. Duplicated the background layer, desaturated the layer and applied a Gaussian Blur 45px. I then inverted the layer applied the blending mode overlay and reduced the opacity so that it had contrast but I didn’t lose any details.
  2. I created two new layers and filled them with 50% grey, naming one dodge and one burn. Using a soft brush with a low opacity and darkened shadow areas with black on the burn layer and used white on highlights on the dodge layer.
  3. I duplicated the background layer again and applied a highpass filter at 10px and set the blending to hard light. I duplicated this layer and lowered the opacity before selectively applying the sharpening.
  4. I created  a hue and saturation adjustment layer, check boxed colourize and set a sepiaish hue with the blending mode hue.
  5. I opened a colour balance layer and shifted the colours towards red and magenta.
  6. I finally created a new layer filled it with black and used a reveal all layer mask with the blending set to overlay. Using a soft brush with a low opacity I masked out the face of the portrait and then duplicated the layer and set the blending to multiply

Although my rendition is not exactly the same as Dragan’s, I think you can see the inspiration in the tone and style of the image. I like the way the light is emphasised in the hair and the details in the pours. The darkening on the sides works well in making it seems as if the portrait has been front lit.

Have you ever tired to create your own Dragan image? Do you like this style of image? Let me know in the comment box below or any other comment you have.

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