Chiaroscuro, literally translated as "light and dark," is a technique of pictorial representation most associated with great artists such as Rembrandt and Caravaggio. It's true that a similar effect could be created in the photographic studio with the careful use of studio lighting. Sadly, not all of us have such equipment, or the knowledge needed to organize such complicated lighting, and besides, the results in camera can still lack depth and creativity.
By simulating this classic technique in Photoshop, we're allowed much more control over which parts of the image fade into darkness, and which parts are blessed with the scintillating, jewel-like highlights so typical of the technique. Key to this Photoshop technique is the use of a layer filled with 50% gray; a pure neutral in digital imaging terms. By setting this layer to Overlay and painting onto it with black or white, the tones within the image can be very accurately controlled and modified.
For a stunning image, follow the recipe and take a trip into the dark side of light! For the initial image sharpening here, we'll employ the wonder of Smart Filters, so you can readjust the sharpening whenever you want to.
1 We'll sharpen the image with a Smart Filter, so we can always go back and modify the ...