One of my favorite effects for images is what's commonly known as "grunge". It has a desaturated, grainy, textured look that adds mood and mystery to an otherwise tame image. It lends itself to images of athletes and I use it frequently when processing athlete composites.
Throw in some dramatic lighting, layer the image of the athlete over a background that adds context and drama to the image, and a transformation from mundane to eye catching takes place.
Several times after posting some of my grungy, composite images I've been asked how I create this effect in my images. I'll walk you through one process I use but first some background.
I've had the great fortune to learn how to create grunge composites using athlete images from Joel Grimes who not only pioneered this look but who has taken it to levels that I try to imitate but never with anything remotely close to the same results. The man is color blind so you would think that would be a major impediment to creating his incredible composites but his imagination and vision is unparalleled. I know that my end product will never measure up to his images but with every attempt I get a little better.
I've used the grunge effect on images other than sports composites and in many cases it seems to work well. I've tried it on landscapes, street images, informal portraits, studio images, and many other images I've taken.
Images that lend themselves particularly well to the effect are portraits (formal or informal) of older men with weathered faces.
Look for Part II on a couple of different ways you can add grunge to your images. I'll try to post this follow up soon.