Achieving "dreamlike" look in photos

Occasionally I see a photo with a dreamlike feeling. (see example) I don’t mean something that used props or heavy manipulation. Here is my guess on how to achieve this: Start with a good exposure, create a luminosity mask for the highlights. Blur the new layers and apply at around 15%. That may be what I’m seeing?

photo by Alex Gutkin

Hi @okieman,

One Method:


Duplicate the layer and apply high pass filter (with high Std.Dev and high contrast) to duplicated layer:

Invert it:

Apply soflight as blend mode:

In your example is also a HDR operator in play like Mantiuk 2006 or similar (here Mantiuk 2006 and sharpening with unsharp mask):


I will definitely try that!

Are you sure it is a processing effect to create the dreamlike look? I clicked through about twenty of his photos and almost all were taken at sunrise or sunset. IMO it is the wonderful light and locations creating the effect.

My sunrise or sunset photos never look that good, but there could be issues with location/gear/photographer. I’ll have to experiment with the ideas on the table so far, and see if there is a way to make this idea more concrete.

If you upload a raw and attribute the ‘play raw’ category you might get more ideas on how to approach it.