Creating ‘Solarized’ Images in Lightroom

Hi Folks:

Solarization or the Sabatier Effect is a technique that goes back to the 19th century. While it was likely first discovered accidentally, it came to be used for creative purpose. Solarization is a technique of grossly overexposing a negative so that some or all of the image becomes reversed – the brightest become darkest and vice versa. This was sometimes seen even in early Daguerrotypes and was later adapted to printing as well.

Fast forward a couple of centuries, and overexposing your sensor simply gets you a histogram with no highlight detail… not nearly as exciting.

While it’s possible to create this kind of effect in Photoshop using layers and blend modes, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts I like to play around to see what I can create in Lightroom. Now, since Lightroom doesn’t work natively with layers, it’s really impossible to do this with just Lightroom, so I turned to the LR/Enfuse plugin from Timothy Armes instead. Originally created for merging HDR exposures, the LR/Enfuse plugin can be used creatively in other ways as explained here: Using the LR/Enfuse plugin for Lightroom. LR/Enfuse is donationware, and well worth whatever you can afford to pay for it.

Creating this effect in Lightroom is actually quite simple. Essentially one begins with an image, converts it to monochrome (B&W), duplicates it and creates a negative version of that. Then the two are joined together using LR/Enfuse. We’ll go into that in a little more detail. Continue Reading →