4 Photoshop Styles to Lift Your Photos Above the Crowd

Gabrielle Gosha
Gabrielle Gosha

In an earlier SitePoint article, we talked about the importance of evoking emotion with your imagery choices. I also showed you how to nail those photography styles in Photoshop to create engaging, heartfelt designs.

This time around, I’m going to share four more eye-catching effects that can be achieved in under 10 minutes using Photoshop.

Here are the photography styles I’ll be covering today:

  • Purist Effect
  • Muted Black & White Effect
  • DuoTone Effect
  • Targeted Blur Effect

The Purist Effect

As the name implies, “The Purist” effect is at its best when people don’t even notice it’s there – like ‘natural look makeup’ for your photos.

You probably won’t be aware of any special filters or gradients going on in this image. The goal is to achieve a look that is close to SOOC (Straight Out of the Camera), while still bringing out the natural beauty of your photo.

In most cases, you’ll be tweaking the colors on the RGB curve to subtly enhance your work.

Purist effects work well with food and fashion blogs, where the imagery needs to appear authentic. You’ll also see this style used on websites that cater to any form of news (sports, local, technology, current events, etc), where the core aim is to tell a true story, as opposed to a surreal or fantastic version of your story.

These Vagabond Shoes

Brickyard play avista

Master Class: Doing it by hand

Question without notice: On an RGB screen, what happens when to your blue tones – skies and oceans – when you add more red and green to them?

Answer: They closer and closer they move to pure white. So, by the same logic, slightly reducing the red and green tones in our blue areas will make them appear cleaner and stronger. The same idea applies to the red and green areas. That’s what we’re doing here.

Step 1

First thing’s first, open up your desired image. For each of these looks, I will be using photos taken by Flickr users offering their photos under CC licensing. Photo credit:

Pool and huts

(A perfectly nice enough photo)

Step 2

Add a new Adjustment Layer by either clicking at the bottom of your layer menu or on the side of the layer menu depending on your setup and select Curves.

Adjustment layer

Step 3

Adjust the RGB curve by setting the Output to 54 and the Input to 76. This will push the overall contrast.


Step 4

Now select the Red curve (in the dropdown) and change your Output to 116 and Input to 133.

Red channel

Tweaking the red channel

Step 5

Move to the Green curve and drop the top of your line so your Output is 242 and your Input remains at 255.

The Green channel

The Green channel

Step 6

Finish up by adjusting your Blue curve so that your Output is 122 and your Input is 130.

The Blue channel

The Blue channel

Before and After

Before and After Not bad. Rich and lush not unrealistic.

The Muted Black & White Effect

While Black and White photos will always have a vintage feel, they also often project a sense of dignity and stripped back truth earned through their long history of use in photojournalism. Today we’re going to focus on what I’m calling “The Muted Black and White”. This is the faded black and white image that doesn’t have an abundance of contrast and features a lot of gray tones.

You typically see this look used on fashion based sites including those that fall into the category of art, culture, and education. The look is seldom used in news and food sites but it doesn’t mean it can’t be.

Unlike The Purist look, this one can’t be used for every photo especially given your subject without changing your workflow. For example models and subjects that feature darker hues and skin tones can get drowned out with the muted combination with a black and white application if the background is already dark. If that’s the case you may want to opt for either the muted look or a black and white look with a high contrast.



Master Class: Doing it by hand

Step 1

Open up your image. In this case I will be using an image courtesy of Sima Dimitric via Flickr CC licensing. Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/simajr/4182166296/

Step 2

Create a new Adjustment Layer by either clicking the icon at the bottom of your layer menu or on the side depending on your setup. You will want to select the Black & White option.

Adjustment layer

Step 3

Depending on your particular image you will adjust the hues to your liking. In this scenario, we will adjust each hue accordingly so that the below image is your final output.

Selecting the Black & White option

Step 4

To achieve our muted look you will first want to make sure your paint colors are set to default black and white. If not first click (D) on your keyboard then (X) so that black is your foreground color. Next, create a new Adjustment Layer and select Gradient.

Select gradient.

Step 5

When the Gradient dialogue box pops up change the scale to 130% and click OK. That’s it, you’re finished. For a more muted look, you can always duplicate your gradient layer and adjust the opacity as desired.

Gradient overlay

Before and After

Before and After

The Duotone Effect

One of the more creative photography looks, “DuoTone”, is a stylish effect that is lifted from the printing and illustration technique where you combine one halftone with another, usually of a contrasting color. The final look is a cross between colors that give you a look that is reminiscent of Pop Art.

DuoTone as one can guess is not a look that is for every photo let alone all website niches. You are more often than not going to see this look with promotional marketing such as for high fashion, athletic sports and music. Spotify anyone? Formal sites like financial businesses and news organizations will probably want to shy from this one.

Camera and lighting settings will have an impact on your final look but with a couple manual tweaks here and there you should be able to create something you’re proud of.




Master Class: Doing it by hand

Step 1

Start by opening your photo. To better illustrate this effect we’ll be using a portrait courtesy of Rebecca Watts courtesy of CC licensing via Flickr. Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rebeccakatielouisexo/13387211315/in/photostream/

Portrait courtesy of Rebecca Watts

Step 2

Create an Adjustment Layer and select Gradient Map.

Adjustment Layer and select Gradient Map

Step 3

When the dialogue box pops up, double-click on the gradient and choose the purple and orange gradient. At this point, we have achieved the look but I will show you how to alter the colors and percentage of each color cast.

Selecting colors

Step 4

The color markers

Use this to change the purple to #0073a9.

Change the purple to #0073a9

Change the orange to #ff46b7 and change the Location to 70%.

Apply color

Step 5

Finish up by making the photo pop so your facial details aren’t lost by making another Adjustment Layer and selecting Levels. Change the levels to reflect the image below and then you’re done.

Adjust the levels for detail

Before and After


The Targeted Blur

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Obviously, in many scenarios, a photographer will consciously select a specific depth of field for a photo using the lens and exposure settings. That doesn’t mean that you’re always stuck with that. With Photoshop, you can create what we will call “The Targeted Blur” look in order to draw attention to a specific element in the photo.

This is a technique that you will see in most site niches because after all the purpose of a photo is to enhance content. Fashion, sports, and food sites are notorious for featuring shots that have a primary focus thanks to using a shallow depth of field.

While with other photography looks your lighting and camera settings play a huge role in the outcome of your photo you have no limitations when it comes to creating a focused blur unless the area you want to focus on is already out of focus.

[caption id="attachment_157402" align="aligncenter" width="1340"]Screenshot from https://mustapp.me https://mustapp.me/2016/editors-picks/2

Master Class: Doing it by hand

Step 1

Open your desired image. We will be using the photo below via CC licensing of Flickr user Travel Oriented. Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/traveloriented/15348035017/

Giant inflatable ducky
Step 2

Select the Quick Selection Tool (W) and select both the duck and the people in the foreground.

Masking the foreground

Step 3

At the top of your toolbar click on Refine Edge and adjust the settings as shown below and click OK.

Refine the edge

Step 4

Next go to Select >Inverse to invert your selection or hold Shift+CTRL+I.

Inverse the mask

Step 5

Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and change your radius to 3.9 pixels. Click OK and that’s all to it. You can edit your photo passed this stage now if you want.

Blur background

Before and After

Before and after

That’s a Wrap

Which of these styles did you already know how to do? Did you do them using the same technique as me? Let us know in the comments, as I’d be curious to know if you used another method!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Photoshop Styles

What are the different types of Photoshop styles available?

Photoshop styles are pre-configured effects that can be applied to layers in Photoshop. They include drop shadows, bevels, glows, color overlays, and more. Each style has a unique effect and can be customized to suit your specific needs. For instance, you can adjust the opacity, distance, and size of a drop shadow, or change the color and blend mode of a color overlay. The possibilities are endless, and with a bit of creativity, you can create stunning effects that will make your photos stand out.

How can I apply a Photoshop style to a layer?

Applying a Photoshop style to a layer is quite simple. First, select the layer you want to apply the style to in the Layers panel. Then, click on the Styles panel (Window > Styles if it’s not already open), and select the style you want to apply. The style will be instantly applied to your layer. You can then adjust the style settings in the Layer Style dialog box if needed.

Can I create my own Photoshop styles?

Yes, you can create your own Photoshop styles. To do this, first apply the desired effects to a layer using the Layer Style dialog box. Once you’re happy with the look, click on the ‘New Style’ button in the dialog box. You can then name your style and save it for future use. Your new style will appear in the Styles panel, and you can apply it to other layers with just one click.

How can I download and install new Photoshop styles?

There are many websites where you can download free or premium Photoshop styles. Once you’ve downloaded a style file (.asl), you can install it in Photoshop by going to Edit > Presets > Preset Manager, selecting ‘Styles’ from the dropdown menu, and clicking on the ‘Load’ button. Navigate to the location of your downloaded .asl file, select it, and click ‘Load’. The new styles will appear in your Styles panel.

How can I use Photoshop styles to enhance my photos?

Photoshop styles can be used to add depth, texture, and visual interest to your photos. For instance, you can use a drop shadow style to give a flat photo a 3D effect, or a color overlay style to change the mood of a photo. The key is to experiment with different styles and settings to find what works best for your photo. Remember, less is often more when it comes to photo editing, so try not to overdo it.

Can I apply multiple styles to a single layer?

Yes, you can apply multiple styles to a single layer in Photoshop. When you apply a style to a layer, it doesn’t replace the existing style, but adds to it. This allows you to create complex effects by combining different styles. However, keep in mind that applying too many styles can make your photo look over-processed.

How can I remove a Photoshop style from a layer?

To remove a Photoshop style from a layer, simply select the layer in the Layers panel, and click on the ‘Clear Style’ button at the bottom of the Styles panel. This will remove all styles from the layer, but won’t affect any other layer properties.

Can I apply a Photoshop style to a text layer?

Yes, you can apply a Photoshop style to a text layer. This can be a great way to create eye-catching text effects for your designs. Just like with image layers, you can apply, adjust, and remove styles from text layers using the Styles and Layer Style panels.

How can I share my custom Photoshop styles with others?

If you’ve created a custom Photoshop style that you want to share with others, you can do so by saving it as a .asl file. To do this, go to Edit > Presets > Preset Manager, select ‘Styles’ from the dropdown menu, select the style you want to save, and click on the ‘Save Set’ button. You can then share the .asl file with others, who can install it in their own Photoshop using the ‘Load’ button in the Preset Manager.

Can I use Photoshop styles in other Adobe applications?

While Photoshop styles are primarily designed for use in Photoshop, some styles can also be used in other Adobe applications like Illustrator and After Effects. However, not all style effects are supported in these applications, so the results may vary. It’s best to experiment and see what works for your specific needs.