Hello Muddy Photo...

Part of my job as the Art Director at OnTap Magazine is laying out the event photo pages, which appear in the first few pages of the paper each month. These are generally on a bleached white newsprint, which—while better than regular newsprint—is still about as easy to work with as paper maché.

One of the main problems with newsprint is the dot gain. This, in general, causes pictures to go massively dark unless you do some crazy curves editing in photoshop. On top of that, most of the photos I get for the photo pages are taken far away from the subject, with the flash turned on, in a dark room. That or they’ve got more desaturation than “Band of Brothers”. Just dull. Also known as the famous “hazy shade of brown” photo look. Here’s an example as “Figure 1”:

After a month of tweaking these by hand, I came up with a process that I very quickly automated into a photoshop action, and it is included at the end of this article (for those of you who don’t like to read directions).

The basic idea is to increase contrast, color saturation, and dial in overall levels. The process is pretty simple:

  1. Open the photo in Photoshop
  2. Since flashes tend to make images nice and cold, run Image → Adjustments → Photo Filter to warm up the shot a bit [optional]
  3. Duplicate the background layer
  4. Change the transfer mode of Layer 1 (the duplicated layer) to “Overlay”
  5. Run Image → Adjustment → Levels on Layer 1 to basically lighten up the image. I simply adjust the output levels to 93 and 235 (to help control the bloom from the flash) and adjust the midrange slider appropriately.
  6. Run Image → Adjustment → Levels on the background layer and get your final color/contrast for the image. Tweak until satisfied
  7. Flatten and dump to CMYK and viola! You have images fit for print

Now depending on your printer, you might have ink saturation issues, so check that on the images, especially in the blacks (newsprint + 4 color black = nightmare).

The final should look something like this, which while it may be too much for the web, comes out dead sexy when you’re trying to get people’s attention.

Download the action: OnTap_photohack.atn (1k)

  1. Crystal says:

    I love that we can be geeks together. Cool process, very cool turning it into an action.

  2. Rosa says:

    Just follow this steps.1. Go to Image-Adjustment-Desaturate.2. Select History Brush Tool'.3. Click the rose part.(use Zoom tool to make it acatrcue)Tip. Your friend must have done some thing to the black and white part to make it look more stylish. If you wanna do it, go to Image-Adjustment-Color Balance.In here you can control the black and white color. Do this before step2.Good luck!

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