You may have noticed, when looking at commercial shots of people used for print advertising, that the images often have a very nice, crisp, and clean and simple post processed look. So in this quick workflow I am going to teach you how to achieve this post processed finish in Photoshop. The technique I am going to show you also combines a way of sharpening your photos and reversing the soft looking appearance that digital images often have when shot with a DSLR camera because of the Anti-Aliasing Filter (also known as low-pass filter) which is built directly into the hardware of most DSLR camera bodies.

Before we start the workflow, I would like to mention that this method is best used on high-res images only because if you apply it to low-res images then they tend to look over sharpened. So I normally perform this workflow only on a high-res image taken directly from the camera and then I downsize it later for any digital or web use I might have for the image once I have completed this process. You can download a high-res copy of the photo I will be working with here by right clicking on this link and saving the image to your computer first so that you can follow along with this tutorial to see if you can achieve the same final result. Below shows an original version of the image I will be using from the download link above, but in low-res form:


Note that I am using Photoshop version CS6 for this workflow. So the screenshots below are from CS6, but if you are using another version of Photoshop your layers and menus should still look nearly the same.

Step 1 – Got to the layers palette and copy the Background layer. You can do this by clicking on the Background layer once to activate the layer and then pressing the keyboard shortcut command “Ctrl + J” if you are using a Windows computer or “Command + J” if you are on a Mac. After you copy the background layer it should look like this with the new layer named “Layer 1” appearing above the Background Layer:


Step 2 – Then, with Layer 1 selected and active, go to the layer blend mode drop down menu and select “Overlay” and then set the layer opacity to 20%.


After you do that, your image should now look like this:


You can also set the opacity on this Overlay blend layer to more than 20% if you want deeper, richer tones, and a more dark looking level of contrast.

Step 3 – Then click on the Background layer again to make it active again and copy it one more time by pressing the keyboard shortcut command “Ctrl + J” if you are using a Windows computer or “Command + J” if you are on a Mac. After you do that Photoshop will give you a new layer called “Background Copy”. Then click on the Background Copy layer with your mouse and drag it up within the layers window to place it at the top of the row of layers. Once you do that your layer hierarchy should look like this:


Then make sure the Background Copy layer is active by clicking on it once and then go to the Filter drop down menu from the main menu area at the top of the program window in Photoshop and select Filter, Other and then High Pass like so:


When the High Pass dialogue box opens set the Radius to 5.5 and click OK:


Then set the layer blend mode to “Vivid Light” on the Background Copy layer and set the opacity to 30% like so:


Then once you do that your image should look like this:


You can also put the opacity higher than 30% if you want even more pronounced crispness and detail.

Now, you can basically stop here as this is the end of the workflow and you now have a nice crisp and finely detailed commercial looking, post processed image. Also, there will be no further need to sharpen the image if you downsize it to low-res for web use. As you can see, the image above which has been downsized, and with no added sharpening, already looks plenty sharp from using this post processing workflow.

Now I am going to take you one more step further in the workflow to desaturate the image a bit to make the image colors a bit muted. This is a popular finishing technique often used in commercial post processing too these days.

Step 4 – Got to the bottom of the Layers window and click on the circular icon for the adjustment layers menu. Then when the menu pops up select “Channel Mixer”:


When the Channel Mixer box appears click on the “Monochrome” check box. Then go to the layer Opacity on the Channel Mixer layer and set it to 35% like so:


After that your final image should look a bit desaturated like this:


It is not recommended, but if you would like to attempt this workflow on a low-res image of your own then you can follow all of the same workflow steps above and on the Background Copy layer (after you have applied the High Pass filter to the layer). Now instead of setting the opacity to 30% try setting it to about 15%-20% and that might work out O.K. and not end up looking too over sharpened for a low-res image.

If you would like to download my completed high-res PSD file containing all the layers from this tutorial then you can download the full PSD file by clicking here.

Also, if you have any questions or thoughts to add to this workflow please feel free to post them below.