How to Create a Solarization Effect using Lightroom or Photoshop

Solarization is a phenomenon in photography in which the image recorded on a negative or on a photographic print is wholly or partially reversed in tone. Dark areas appear light or light areas appear dark.

The term is synonymous with the Sabattier effect when referring to negatives, but it is technically incorrect when used to refer to prints.

In other words:

  • The correct term that should be used for the photographic effect involving exposure during development in the darkroom is the Sabattier Effect or Pseudo-Solarization. (whether on a negative or print)
  • The term solarization should be used to describe the effect of tone reversal observed in cases of extreme overexposure of the photographic film while still in the camera.

But we tend to use the generic term solarization for both techniques.

Man Ray is one the most famous photographer to have shamelessly broken the golden rule of darkroom photography ‘Do not turn on the light while in the darkroom’. He would momentarily switch back on his studio lights while processing his films. A partial inversion of the image would then appear with dark areas becoming white.

Let’s try to see how to proceed to replicate this technique using a computer and the software Lightroom and Photoshop.

First of all you need to use an image that has a lot of contrast. The background is black and the subject is bright which will allow us to obtain a better inversion for the dark contours.
If you file is in colour, convert it to black and white/monochrome firstSolarization is a phenomenon in photography in which the image recorded on a negative or on a photographic print is wholly or partially reversed in tone. Dark areas appear light or light areas appear dark.

The term is synonymous with the Sabattier effect when referring to negatives, but it is technically incorrect when used to refer to prints.

In other words:

  • The correct term that should be used for the photographic effect involving exposure during development in the darkroom is the Sabattier Effect or Pseudo-Solarization. (whether on a negative or print)
  • The term solarization should be used to describe the effect of tone reversal observed in cases of extreme overexposure of the photographic film while still in the camera.

But we tend to use the generic term solarization for both techniques.

Man Ray is one the most famous photographer to have shamelessly broken the golden rule of darkroom photography ‘Do not turn on the light while in the darkroom’. He would momentarily switch back on his studio lights while processing his films. A partial inversion of the image would then appear with dark areas becoming white.

Let’s try to see how to proceed to replicate this technique using a computer and the softwares; Lightroom and Photoshop.

First of all you need to use an image that has a lot of contrast. The background is black and the subject is bright which will allow us to obtain a better inversion for the dark contours.
If you file is in colour, convert it to black and white/monochrome first Solarization is a phenomenon in photography in which the image recorded on a negative or on a photographic print is wholly or partially reversed in tone. Dark areas appear light or light areas appear dark.

The term is synonymous with the Sabattier effect when referring to negatives, but it is technically incorrect when used to refer to prints.

In other words:

  • The correct term that should be used for the photographic effect involving exposure during development in the darkroom is the Sabattier Effect or Pseudo-Solarization. (whether on a negative or print)
  • The term solarization should be used to describe the effect of tone reversal observed in cases of extreme overexposure of the photographic film while still in the camera.

But we tend to use the generic term solarization for both techniques.

Man Ray is one the most famous photographer to have shamelessly broken the golden rule of darkroom photography ‘Do not turn on the light while in the darkroom’. He would momentarily switch back on his studio lights while processing his films. A partial inversion of the image would then appear with dark areas becoming white.

Let’s try to see how to proceed to replicate this technique using a computer and the softwares; Lightroom and Photoshop.

First of all you need to use an image that has a lot of contrast. The background is black and the subject is bright which will allow us to obtain a better inversion for the dark contours.
If you file is in colour, convert it to black and white/monochrome first

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