The cinematic look is really popular right now, and you can easily create a nice cinema-inspired look in Photoshop. In this tutorial we’ll cover the process of creating the effect, but if you want to get the cinematic look instantly without any manual work in Photoshop you can download a free action here, and we also have a set of 20 Cinema Photoshop Actions that can be purchased.
For the tutorial I will be using the photo below, which can be downloaded for free at Splitshire if you’d like to work along.
The first thing you need to do is duplicate your background layer. That way if you don’t like any of the adjustments that we make you can just delete the layers and adjustment layers and you will still have your untouched original photo.
With your duplicate layer go to Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlights. It will open a window like the one shown below. Tick the box for “show more options”.
Once the window opens up adjust the settings as shown below.
All we are doing here is lightening the shadows a bit.
Next, we want to sharpen the image. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. If you are working with the sample photo use the settings shown below.
If you are working with a different photo you may want to adjust the settings as needed. The sample photo is high resolution, but if you are working with a smaller resolution the setting of 7 pixels for the radius may be too much.
In the following steps we’ll add several adjustment layers. Each time you need to add an adjustment layer you can click on the icon shown below and select the type of adjustment layer that you want.
Add a curves adjustment layer and create a curve that resembles the one shown below.
This curve will add a little bit of contrast.
Next, add another curves adjustment layer and create a curve like the one below.
Here we are darkening the midtones of the image.
Next, add a brightness and contrast adjustment layer and set the contrast to +15.
At this point our photo looks like this.
Next, add a vibrance adjustment layer. Set the vibrance to +10 and the saturation to -15. That slight desaturation is key to the look that we are after.
The next step is to add a photo filter adjustment layer. You can set it to “warming filter (85)” and change the density to 35%. This just gives the photo some added warmth.
The last step is to add a gradient fill adjustment layer. You’ll want to gradient that goes from black to transparent, set it to radial, 90 degrees, and 200%. This will be used to create a vignette.
Next, change that layer’s blend mode to “Soft Light” and the opacity to 60. You can adjust the opacity as needed to create a stronger or softer vignette.
And here is the end result.