Over the past year I have become know in photography circles for being something of a HDR chap, and for the most part the bulk of my work during 2010 was indeed processed using HDR software. It hasn’t always been that way, in fact I didn’t have any HDR software until January of 2010…Since then I’ve caught the bug and haven’t regretted it one bit. Prior to 2010 I used a different method of giving my Urban exploration work that ‘grunge’ look by blending both colour and mono layers together in Photoshop.
There can be a lot of fiddling about with getting the tones and levels right but the basic idea is this: Open your picture into Photoshop (I’m using Elements) and duplicate the layer, then set the blend mode on the new layer to ‘Screen’, this will lighten the photo. Then right click on that layer and select ‘Merge layer’, you will be back to one layer. Duplicate this layer and convert the new layer to mono using your preferred method. If you use the ‘Convert to Back and white’ tool you will see a range of presets that give different mono looks, such as infra-red, landscape, portrait etc Play around with these and see how the colours react (though you will be seeing black and white). e.g For the picture above I chose to use the infra-red as it darkened the blues and brightened the green areas. Now you have both a colour and mono layer in the layers pallet. With the mono layer still selected, change the blend mono to ‘Multiply’. What you should now see is a much more contrasty and dirty looking picture and if you’re happy with the way it looks then flatten the layers and save. I find that for the most part additional adjustments are required but these vary from picture to picture, usually I’ll change the opacity of the mono layer or use adjustment layers to change the brightness and contrast for each layer. Sometimes I will flatten the layers and use the highlight/shadow tool to balance the image.
As you can see it is not an exact science, but with a little Photoshop know-how you can give your shots that dirty grungy look that some derelict places seem to benefit from, at least in my opinion.
Here is a shot I did a couple of years back using the same method.