Selectively Desaturating Shadows and Highlights

Working with Resolve for Color Grading my videos I came across one technique I really like. Using a simple curve you can selectively desaturate shadows and highlights. This results in a subtly difference in the look from what you usually get from digital captures. The image just looks more natural. This video shows a nice wrap-up of how to do it in DaVinci resolve.

In case you're wondering why that is let me explain it in some short sentences (I went to med school after all ;) ). The human eye contains both receptors for color and for brightness. With enough light color vision dominates but with less light the brightness sensors take over. That's why we can't descriminate colors at night.

Here's a before and after comparision for you to see for yourself. The model is Sherriff Jillo Murugi Abdhul, the image was taken at a shoot for Denisa Scundea from the .

Test0138+before.jpg Test0138+after.jpg

Unfortunately, at the moment there is no way to do this in any photo editing software as elegantly as in DaVinci's Resolve. But luckily there’s quite an easy work around in Photoshop.

  • Open the image in Photoshop.
  • Create a new solid color layer with a brightness of 50%.
  • Right-click the new color layer and pick "Blending options".
  • For adjusting shadow saturation pull the right handle for the undelying layer to the left.
  • Sepatrate handle by alt-clicking for fine adjustments.
  • Set layer blend mode to color.
  • For highlight saturation repeat steps 2-6 with pulling from right to left.

For more detailed instructions please watch the video.

Was that useful to you? What techniques do you apply to a similar effect?