Cross-processing (or ‘Xpro’) is an effect often used in fashion photography to give the kind of stylised look you can see here.
In the traditional chemical lab, cross processing was achieved by developing a roll of positive film through chemicals intended for negatives, or vice-versa.
Different films and chemicals would produce varying results, but typically you’d see increased contrast and shifts in colour, often with strong yellow highlights and blue shadows.
The cross-processing effect is easy to replicate in the digital darkroom, and as there are no specific rules for cross-processed colouring, you’re free to experiment with different colour shifts. Key to this technique is the Curves command, which gives you control over the Red, Green and Blue colour channels.
You can access Curves in Photoshop CS, but you can also use Curves in Lightroom 4 and Adobe Camera Raw 7 (which we’ve used here).
With Curves you can get the cross-processed look in seconds. And because Adobe Camera Raw (and Lightroom) lets you edit raw files, you’ll ensure the maximum possible quality.
Step by step how to get the look of cross-processing
01 Boost contrast
Navigate to xpro_before.dng in Adobe Bridge then double-click to open it into ACR. In the Basic Panel, set Temperature 5650, Tint +21, Contrast +70, Vibrance +14. These settings aren’t set in stone, we’re aiming to add warmth, boost colours and increase saturation.
02 Add blue shadows
Click the Tone Curve Panel and choose ‘Point’. Select Blue from the Channel drop-down, then drag the bottom-left point of the Curve line upwards and the top-right corner down to make the line slightly more horizontal.
03 Tweak channels
Select the Green channel, then drag the top-right corner point down slightly. Add two new points along the Curve line and make a steep ‘S’ shape.
Next, select the Red channel and make a shallow ‘S’, then do the same on the RGB channel.