B&W CONVERSIONS IN 5 EASY STEPS PHOTOSHOP

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by newbie|1, May 2, 2009.

  1. I normally do prefer to shoot B&W; I love how it looks and speaks to me when the subject is shot. I shoot with a Nikon D300 and normally have it set on Monotone. I then take my photos into photshop and work with them a bit to achieve the final photo.
    I am not that great or even "experienced" at photoshop, yet I am learning as I go. I just always thought I could achieve much greater detail than I was achieving.
    Yesterday my After Capture Magazine, april may 2009, www.aftercapture.com, came and I sat down reading it this am over my coffee. There is an article about a fine are photographer in Seattle, Washington, USA. She shoots and prefer B&W photos; (VictoriaBjorklund.com)
    The article is basically an instruction which she uses for her B&W photos for shows. It is stated in the article to be a somple, powerful RAW conversion workflow for beautiful black and white photos.
    I took the article and posted it next to my computer and utilized it this am. The results were fantastic. I was very happy with them. Please see my workspace on Colorado. there you will find three photos of a small abandonded home along hiway 6; one photo is right out of my camera B&W. One photo is adjusted by photoshop without utilizing Victoria Bjorkland's instructions and the third is my second attempt this am using her instructions in the article. I am impressed; what a difference her method achieves.
    ps:
    I have along way to go, I am just learning, however, this article and method is helping.
    This photo is out of camera:
    [​IMG]
    This photo is adjusted per the article:
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Might be fewer than five steps in CS4 if we exclude steps that would be done in any case for color such as curves masks, etc.
    1. Select Layer -> New Adjustment Layer - Black and white option and choose either default or one of the other filter options.
    2. Add a curves layer to adjust black and white point and mid-tone contrast.
    Dan
     
  3. Sounds like you'd be interested in the Channels palette. Try shooting RAW in full color, process it into PS in 8 bits, and then look at the various renditions in Channels. In portraiture, the Green channel gives strongly textured skin a la Marlboro Man, and the Red channel gives the ladies dairymaid skin; in landscape photography, it separates tonalities that would be inseparable in a monochrome image. You can adjust the proportions of each color in PS to produce a black-and-white image with the Image->Adjustments->Black and White, or with Image->Adjustments->Channel Mixer, and you can also add toning.
    For that matter, you can do much the same thing in Adobe Camera Raw. The Hues tab lets you adjust the balance of each hue, and there's a checkbox to produce black-and-white images. Lots of ways to produce stunning pictures--explore and have fun!
     
  4. I'm not impressed to be honest. It's one way allright but hardly the best way. To be honest she loses me right at the start because converting to greyscale is one of the worst ways to convert a photo to b&w. Looking at her photo's it's obvious that a lot of her work is low on contrast and density. while that probably is a deliberate choice on her part I don't think it's a good way to advice such a workflow to beginners. Your photo is merely proof of that. There is a severe lack in tonal range that should have been there. And btw, shooting in monotone like you do isn't something I would advice either.
     
  5. jtk

    jtk

    RAW, Lightroom.
     
  6. Tom:
    Would you advise and prefer shooting in color then converting to B&W in Photoshop?
     
  7. I've had good results in Aperture by shooting raw, using the Monochrome Mixer to simulate a color filter, and tweaking highlight recovery, contrast and levels to get the contrast and dynamic range right. Photoshop and Lightroom have all of this (and newer versions of Photoshop have a great film and filter simulation setup), I just like Aperture because of how nicely it works with the versions system - I can compare, for example, different color filters side by side without creating new files. What's important to remember is that you have a lot of DR and contrast latitude with raw files, and you can do a lot with color filters in post - it's not just contrast, it's geting the contrast from the right colors - so don't just Grayscale the image and call it done. You can get, maybe not quite as good as what you can do with good B&W film and really knowing how to use it, but it's a lot easier.
     
  8. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    converting to greyscale is one of the worst ways to convert a photo to b&w​
    That's not what she's doing. She's using the ACR (same thing in LR) conversion which is not the same as converting to greyscale in Photoshop. It allows full control on the image, although she chooses one of the preset curves, which isn't a bad idea given how painful the conversion is. Some of her converted images look pretty good, the one above doesn't.
    I use Nik Silver Efex, it has as much control as the conversion in ACR/LR but it is a lot more intuitive and doesn't require as much jiggling of individual color sliders.
     
  9. When I shoot Monochrome and I open the photo is Nikon NX2 it opens B&W. When I open it in Photoshop it opens Color and has to be converted first?
    When I compare the photo that was initially opened in NX2 to the photo opened and converted without manipulation in CS4 I personally detect no difference in them?
    The contrast is always soft, lighting always needs adjusting and there is always a tint of color, such as blue from the skys or a bit too much in other areas. I am trying to fine tune my abilities so that my photos improve much.
     
  10. you're right, I was incomplete. If you export the photo to PS, what she doesn't, you're left with a greyscale image. Not the best way if you want to do some further tweaking in PS and you're not aware of that as I suspect most beginners aren't. And yes, some look pretty good but others don't IMO.
    James, yes. That's what I would advice and if you're not that proficient with PS than the Silver Efex plug-in that Jeff uses is way better than that five step conversion.
     
  11. Ton:
    I will take a photo, color, into photoshop and work it. I will then post it here, beginning and end and see what you think.
    Jim
     
  12. [​IMG]
    mining town homes converted to bw in photoshop
    [​IMG]
    mining town homes color prior to photoshop
    Opinions?
     
  13. "James, yes. That's what I would advice and if you're not that proficient with PS than the Silver Efex plug-in that Jeff uses is way better than that five step conversion."
    I'd argue SEP is the best route regardless of skill level in PS. If for no other reason than speed and on-the-fly preview of what you are doing.. but I personally like the algorithms they use better than anything LR or PS uses, especially if you want flim-like styles.
    Kyle
     
  14. Hello James,
    The first 2 images posted lack a huge amount of depth and are so flat (concerning the b & w tones)...and I wonder why are you interested in limiting it to "5 Easy Steps"....?
    I always shoot RAW/Color and do the conversion via the channels mixer, then curves, then maybe dodge/burn, then maybe a curves mask and a little painting with light, then maybe some gamma adjustment, then maybe whatever else, then USM/Smart Sharpen to taste....Ready for print.....
    I don't (IMO) think there is just an easy recipe to get a quality B & W conversion...of course each person has their own vision and steps to get to the final product.....
     
  15. "I'd argue SEP is the best route regardless of skill level in PS."
    Ok, let's start allover again to avoid any further misunderstandings. If you really want to get good at something than there isn't such a thing as "five easy steps" and yet the article suggests a method for seasoned pro's and newcomers alike. Seasoned pro's know better believe me while newcomers would be best adviced to study in order to create stunning results. In that sense it's one of many articles and misleading at best, best to be ignored IMO. People who are consistently good at this have all, without exception, put in a lot of time and effort.
    James, my opinion is just the one. More to the point is what you think and even more importantly want. However, in my opinion your second conversion looks way better concerning tonality although there seems to be less light in the top of your photo.
     
  16. I'm still using photoshop CS and channel mixer. There are combos that mimic different b&w films, and you can find these on the web. Tweak with curves and tint with color balance as desired. Works great.
     
  17. I had purchased CS2 and was beginning to get comfortable with it to some degree. Then CS4 came out with the ability to see RAW, so I obtained it. I like it to some degee much better, however I am just learning it. I think that if I am to be consistently good with it I will work with it.
    I much prefer and to shoot Black and White. The photo speaks best to me when it can be comfortable with itself. The subjects and subject matter I address compliments Black and white as well as the black and white compliments the subjects.
    I have had a digital camera for a little over a year now and while it seems best for me, it is still taking time to get used to. "Baby Steps"
     
  18. As a side note, GIMP has a simple options to turn a color image to B&W - "desaturate" by lightness, luminosity, or average on the active layers. This is not simple grayscaling.
    Took the liberty to use your color jpeg for comparison.
    00TEoS-130755584.jpg
     
  19. Thank you John.
     
  20. I find the Alien Skin Exposure 2 plug-in to be a great tool for coverting to B&W. It has presets for dozens of B&W film stocks.
     
  21. James, I took the liberty of working on one of your images to see if it can benefit from just a few steps in PS. It depends what you want to achieve, but it's actually much easier to work with raw format, because you can influence tonality of each color independently.
    Anyway here is your photo:
    00TEqg-130781784.jpg
     
  22. Here it is after few minutes:
    00TEqi-130781884.jpg
     
  23. James,
    I'll simply echo what most have already said about shooting in RAW and then converting to B/W. For the most part, digital cameras in B/W mode can't touch the tonality a good B/W film gives you. Try playing around with the different filters (Blue, Green, Red etc.) available in PS under the B/W presets. Also, try messing around with the 6 individual color %'s to get a feel. Have fun and tinker with them and don't feel like you're tied down to one way of converting your images.
     
  24. This is hard to do on this JPG file that doesn't have much contrast, so I'm just going to use one of mine.
    Photo I took of a friend's dog who was hanging out under the table, using bounce flash and my old D60:
    [​IMG]
    That was pretty nice but I didn't like the color and I wanted to do a B&W. Here it is with simple desaturation:
    [​IMG]
    Booooooooooooooring. But that's not actually what I did. Here it is, using B&W with a blue filter effect, contrast enhanced, tweaks on the highlight and shadow ends, a bit of levels (on the color channels) and 5 minutes of Photoshop:
    [​IMG]
    I'm going to go back and redo the top of the head and do an 8x10 for my friend. The filter actually did such a job on the background that only a small amount of burn was required. It loses a bit, being shrunk - full screen, the whiskers pop. Aperture was a huge help because I was working on a stack of corrections on top of the color image, that included the B&W as part of the stack, so changes updated in real time in B&W while I tweaked color channels. Doing it manually like that you quickly understand what the colors are contributing to the B&W.
     
  25. Thank you all again. Tell me, Andrew, what filter did you use on the background?
     
  26. I'm learning BW conversion too and tried this with James's image in capture NX2
    00TEul-130815584.jpg
     
  27. and this is how it looked before the desaturation step. Am I on the right track?
    00TEun-130815684.jpg
     
  28. I've researched a lot of conversion methods knowing that nothing can equal real black and white film. There's an essence there that is untouchable with digital.
    Although I use some actions that I don't think are the focus here, I've found a terrific series of steps that can be turned into a one-click conversion.
    You can find it here:
    http://www.gormanphotography.com/bw_conversion.pdf
    I've created an action of all these steps and added a levels layer on top of it all.
    To get the most out of this the original image should be low-contrast as the 'color fill' layer darkens things up a bit. But you can back that opacity off easily and effectively.
    You can check out my b&w conversion, most of which are done with the Gorman action.
    www.pbase.com/bestremera/galleries
    Glad to have contributed in one of these forums instead of just lurking and looking for help.
    Bob
     
  29. James: The background was mostly knocked out by the blue filter of the B&W effect (Monochrome Mixer in Aperture - Photoshop has a similar thing, and it's a preset adjustment layer in CS4). A bit of the bright diagonal of the underside of the table (it was a piece of trim that was facing the flash) remained, and I hit that with a bit of Burn. There are basically three things going on here:
    -The contrast and DR related steps are to compensate for the difference in contrast and DR between color digital and B&W film
    -The color channel tweaking is because B&W films respond to different colors differently
    -The filter is because good B&W photographers often use color filters for different effects (e.g., landscapes done with a red filter to effect the sky level) and shooting digital we don't tend to carry around a bunch of filters anymore (at most we've got UV, CPL and grad/split ND) but we can get the effects without loss because of the extra bits raw gives us - don't try this on JPG, you'll end up enhancing the compression artifacts. Also we can change the filter, see the effect, try another one... using film, you have to really know what's going to happen before you do it, and back in school we shot that way but this way is just so much more convenient, and when you see a dog looking adorable under a table you don't have time to attach a filter.
     
  30. I wish to thank you Andrew. I may attempt this tomorrow when I have a few moments. I have been sitting at this screen most of the day and my eyes are tired. ( sometimes I get carried away and forget the time). But, I love photography.
     
  31. nikon f5 and 10 rolls of pan f will give you the best results.
     
  32. Here's my version. It involves creating a dup layer and setting that layer to multipy. I erased away some of the darkness and then added a touch of gaussian blur. I then added a levels adjustment layer and then flattened. This one needed a bit of shadow highlight filter as the shadows had gone black. I then added a bit of 81a warming filter and sharpened to taste.
    00TF06-130871584.jpg
     
  33. Here one I did.
    00TF3A-130909584.jpg
     
  34. Hello folks
    It's fascinating reading, so many differing opinions and experiences on the great subject of digital B/W conversion ... I'm not very experienced or knowledgable just yet myself, but it is very clear (and slightly daunting!) to me that there are many many ways to skin this particular feline!
    I truly Iove black & white photography, for it's depth and timelessness and it's honesty and great beauty. I have a canon 40D and i have taken quite a lot of raw format colour images of local Scottish landscapes and of family members, at least some of which i hope would make good B/W conversions .... I have unfortunately upto now severely lacked the confidence to attempt even a single B/W conversion (in the main due to being unwilling to download all my images onto my ancient and dying laptop that i urgently need to replace! But also i am just a little by nature apprehensive about the process itself).
    Mostly this thread has been an interesting discussion on the use of Photoshop, and Lightroom, and one-or-two various others for the purposes of B/W conversion, i am wondering what the experienced opinion is on the merits (if any?) of adobe elements 6? When i do get around to buying my new laptop i am already in possesion of elements 6 for my image processing purposes (CS versions being beyond my means and ability at the current time). I also have canon's own bundled software that came with my 40D. Am i equiped to do some good quality B/W image making?
    Or should i just stick to continueing to learn the Art of black and white with my Nikon FM3a and a few rolls of good black and white film?
    Kind regards to all, have enjoyed this thread and images immensly!
    Donald
     
  35. Adjusted using the Kodak T-MAX P3200 (grain off) preset in Alien Skin Exposure 2 Photoshop plugin.
     
  36. james,
    how do you rate your photographic skills as opposed to post-processing skills? if the former is 'good enough' then buy yourself an old slr with a working light meter and a 50 1.8 lens stanard lens. any of the major brands should offer 'stunning' quality if the lens does not have any haze. this should be a cheao setup as well. now buy some top notch black and white film and shoot at low iso. send your roll to a good quality lab and see the prints. once you have seen your own prints, you'd know exactly where you'd want to be with the digital gear.
     
  37. Hi Vanja ... my vote for your version. I always used ... layers, gradient map, gradient editor, and curves ... Ray.
     
  38. Hardly the best method, but my favorite one-step B&W conversion in photoshop is Image Adjustment > Gradient Map. Select the B&W gradient, and then adjust Smoothness to taste (I usually go with 100). For extra punch, go with USM (20, 50, 0).
    Pretty decent B&W in less than half a minute. But of course no color filtration options...
     
  39. Ray: thanks.
    Donald, you can stick to b/w films even when you learn PS, I know I miss my darkroom very much.
    Anyway, when you learn more about digital b/w conversion in one software (eg. PS), it's easy to understand how to do it in any other software. In the end it's all about personal preference. Experiment, untill you find your own. - I remember, in my school days, for sepia toning, there was nothing better than italian mocca coffee.
     
  40. Donald:
    Practice makes almost perfect. Copy your photos then work with the copies to learn, never the single original; that is what I do. First step for me is to pull up the photos on my card, copy to a folder on my computer, copy them all to a DVD disk, (which I label and file in a separate case), then copy them also to my 1 terabyte external hard drive which only has my photos on it. I then experiment with copies of the photos, not the photos on my memory card. Anyway when all done I erase the card and it is ready to go again. This may seem like too many steps but if my hard drive fails, I am covered.
    If you are going to purchase a new laptop be sure that it has the ATI or NIVIDIA graphics stickers on it. These are the best for photos; ones without will be a little cheaper however the photo quality may not be near as good thus it may not suite your purpose. (I am not a computer man, my computer man preaches this to me and I follow). The are good cards.
    BRAD:
    How are you? I have not been in the city for a few weeks, sick right now and have been busy. However, I must state that your work is looking great. Your last trip shots are very good, excellent street scenes. I do like your black and whites. I will have to attempt your method also. Great shooting to you.
     
  41. My prefer method is to use 1 step BW tool in CS4, and add a curve to get a better contrast, Then using some black and white paint over a gray layer set to softlight so i can *paint* my light.
    I also after a long argument with my future San Francisco friend (Brad) had a look at Silver Effex and fine it was a good way of doing bw conversion, simply, without too much need for knowledge..i receive it as a gift, dont use it much, but i can appreciate the quick effect it give.
    I never do my bw conversion in the raw development because i dont want to redo all my correction over again if i ever decide to go back in color..so i export my raw as a color image, then by using my prefer method i work my image as bw, keeping all the color infos.
    __________________
    Brad, i should arrive in SF tomorow, Monday around 1pm
    __________________
    Ton, i will send my image of the month when im back or during my trip if i have a internet connection..a fresh new image : )
     
  42. no worries Patrick. It's supposed to be fun, not an obligation.
     
  43. The character inherent within B&W film I find is lost in digital is the sort of shimmering glow revealed within silver halide paper and in old B&W movies. It can be emulated in digital by exaggerating the tonal modeling by rolling off the highlights to absolute 255 RGB white without seeing any banding or posterization rolling off into the blowout portion.
    I have seen this done in digital B&W but it's often overdone and made obvious using filters like high pass and by over softening to create a fake glow.
    Examine the forehead to side of face tonal roll off in movies like "The Third Man" especially on Orson Wells' big pie face. You can make out all the bumps in his skin as the dense shadows from the side of the face gradually and smoothly roll off into his forehead to a small formless blown out spot that looks like a glow rather than a shine. Modern B&W movies render this kind of modeling as a flat (around 20-30% midgray) tone across the entire face with too much detail in the shadows and a bright spot to show too much shine.
    I asked someone in a cinematography forum once how this look was done and I was told it was all done at the lab in processing back then.
    Here's my attempt at emulating that effect but on a building. I still don't get that same feel though. Did it all in ACR 4.6 paying close attention to the HSL panel for the blue sky and tree highlites.
    00TFFW-131021684.JPG
     
  44. OK,,,, Here is one. This one I used Photoshop and adjusted the Gradiant to BW then adjusted the light. The first one is color. the second it B&W.
    [​IMG]
    Second one is B&W.
    [​IMG]
    Critiques Please?
     
  45. Its fun for sure ; )
     
  46. One thing to remember is that some images just look better in color and don't make good B&W conversions. One of the reason is lighting. B&W often looks good when the lighting is raking across the subject defining texture and shape. You can often photograph in color with very flat lighting and the color saturation and color contrast make for a stunning image in B&W the image may just look like a flat gray textureless blob.
     
  47. Heres the other conversion.
    00TFKH-131053584.jpg
     
  48. Both the mining town houses and the wooded subdivision are exactly the the kind of images that take to black and white rather than color having lots of texture and very little color. My favorite conversion method is what Sean McCromick recommends, press the grayscale button in Lightroom and adjust the 8 color band sliders, white balance or hue in the camera calibration area.
     
  49. Ron, Scubadiver: I like your conversion, the tones.
     
  50. >>> Brad, i should arrive in SF tomorow, Monday around 1pm
    Sounds good Patrick. I believe we're hooking up on Wednesday the 6th for shooting and lunch; so I'll call you on your cell the 5th to coordinate...
     
  51. My favorite method, Uwe Steinmueller's "B&W Resolver" script. All the control you need, link
     
  52. Herman:
    Very nice smooth work flow. The final tree photo is very smooth, flowing; unlike my b&w conversions which appear hard, harsh, sharp lines and shadows; too dark in some areas.
     
  53. Did you try the demo James (works on images up to 2000 pixesl)?
     
  54. As of this time I have not; I am at work right now. I will try later one evening this week. Thank you for asking.
     
  55. Off-topic, but I just noticed that Steinmueller released a free script called "DOP Split Bright Dark".
    The script splits a layer into a brighten and darken component. A companion to his commercial script "EasyDS Detail Sharpness Resolver", but it can be used with other sharpening/local contrast enhancement filters to control light and dark halos.
    Link
     

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