B&W Conversions using CS4

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by drjoder, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. Just wondering what folks use as a workflow/technique when using CS4 to convert to B&W. Do you convert immediately to B&W, then work it? Or, do you work the image in color before converting? What order do you use the tools? (after minimal adjustments in Lightroom...CS 4 for crop, conversion, exposure, contrast, selective color to adjust whites and mid-tones, then sharpening is kind of what I'm doing). I am struggling with getting the most of my B&W images in post--latest critiques said not enough tonal range, contrast, sharpening, etc. and I think they are right. I'll try to attach an example image along with a rework I did. Maybe it's my eye that needs to be trained? Maybe I need to do several versions of an image and push to the extremes to see what the limits are? Suggestions to refine my conversion technique are welcome. Feel free to play with the sample image to show me what you think a good B&W should look like. Thanks!
  2. After Lynn Thomas and Robert Festerling gave me some feedback, I took their advice and gave it a second go. I'll try to attach that.
  3. I don't use CS4 but the earliest edition. I use a very simple plugin called BWstyler. It is fine for my needs and offers are basic tweaking I require.
  4. Since you are starting in LR, you can do very good conversions right there. It is trivial in LR to expand the tonal range, and it has sliders and a targeted adjustment tool that make it simple to work on individual color channels, e.g., if you want to create more contrast by darkening one channel. I don't do much B&W, but for what I have done, LR has been fine--I would only go to PS if that image needed something specific that LR does not do, such as layer masks.
  5. Dan M, thanks, I'll give that idea a try as well!
  6. I stay in color for a good while b4 I convert to B&W. As one example of the utility of doing so, suppose each of the houses in your photo was a different color. If their color saturation is low, the sliders in Photoshop's BW adjustment layer have reduced effect, whereas if I crank up the color saturation (but don't blow any channels) before BW conversion, it's easier to make each house a different B&W tonal value.
    Why don't you post the original JPG or RAW file (ie, full resolution and in color) for those of us who may want to respond to your suggestion to tweak your image? Since one can't post RAW files on photo.net, you may want to consider using dropbox.com or one of the other free file sharing services and post the link.
    Tom M
  7. I'll try to attach the original JPEG...
  8. Here's a version intentionally exaggerated to show how pronounced the tonal differences between the houses can be made. If this is too over-the-top, just mix some of the original back into it.
    Tom M
    PS - I didn't like the nearly blown out sky or the very bright foreground, each of which pulls the viewer's eyes away from the houses, so I darkened both, but I hardly took any care at the transition when doing this, hence the bright band in the sky just above the horizon line of houses.
  9. Daniel,
    The critiques are accurate. Your B&W conversion at the top lacks tonal range. Generally, a good B&W should range from black to white while retaining the various tones of grey in between. This is one of my favourite B&W conversions: http://www.photo.net/photo/9529642
    In PS CS4, what technique in particular do you use t do the conversion? Is it a simple "Convert to greyscale?" If so, that's probably the worst way to do a good conversion. Even "gradient map" is a much better 'quick and dirty' method. There are of course more advanced ones, but I have found the gradient map gives a pretty good result from the onset. I then tweak using curves, etc.
    Truth be told, I now use LR for 90+ % of my post processing and especially B&W conversions. I have created a few presets that suit my preferences.
  10. nah ... Now looking back at it, my previous version strikes me as definitely too contrasty, digital-looking, and bright. Let's try this version instead.
    Tom M
  11. Three separate treatments for foreground, houses and sky. Selection at top of houses was badly done. Used gradient on masks to merge boundaries. I used Capture NX2 and NIK black and white filters, but CS4 chanel mixer could also have been used. Desaturated final image to remove traces of color. Final contrast and micro-contrast enhanced.
  12. Nice job, Indraneel. Unfortunately, IMHO, my treatment (which retains the texture of the exterior walls) makes the houses look like poor folk live in them, whereas in your treatment (without much wall texture), the houses look like row after row of 3-eyed chirpy little alien monsters with huge gaping white mouths.
    Tom M
  13. Honest, Tom, I clean forgot those were garage doors! The monsters sure have large teeth now.
  14. i like you version Tom, good job.... my kind of BW ; )
  15. My suggestion is to see George Jardine’s outstanding free video on all kinds of ways (new and old) of converting to B&W. Its a must see:
  16. This is a very interesting image and clearly points out that one cannot do everything in Lightroom. I spent a little time see what LR can do and the difficulties are in the colors of the houses as they are so close together; I don't think one can achieve what Tom did (and certainly prefer his image to mine) without going to PS. I was able to use the graduated filter tool on the sky and the grass which helps but I don't think that this image can be justice without layers in PS.
  17. This one is a little extreme. I increased contrast in Camera Raw, played with some of the color saturation and luminace sliders and use a gradient on the sky. Then in photoshop, desaturated, played with exposure curve to boost highlights and lower end. Added a gradient layer to darken the foreground and set the blend mode to color burn. Makes me think of the movie "Monster House".
  18. http://www.atncentral.com/bw_conv.html
    Try there and you will find a lot of free B/W plugins for Photoshop. The key to success is to experiment with these and see what you like. Good luck and enjoy!
  19. Used the lightness channel in lab mode, then I bunt in the sharpened with a wide pixel radius and small percentage to increase local contrast then I burnt in foreground and edges, then tone the image a little with hue and sat colorize adjustment.
  20. Here is my attempt. I tried to get a different tone on each house. This was all done in lightroom.
  21. You guys are awesome--and you showed me just how much I still have to learn about all this. I guess one of the key points is that I am not pushing the boundaries nearly as much as I could. I really need to let my hair down, so to speak, and experiment. I will go through all of your examples and suggestions again at a leisurely pace and try to absorb it all. BTW, I like this idea of someone offering up an image for others to play with--it's amazing the different ways we all "see" that final image. Indraneel--I have Silver EFX Pro on my wish list...it sounds like it may give me some more interesting options to play with. Tom--amazing how much detail you pulled from the couds in that high contrast version. Anyway, thanks again to all of you who took the time!
  22. Indraneel--I have Silver EFX Pro on my wish list​
    I'd say, get Color efex pro first.. It'll do nearly everything silver efex pro can, albeit more slowly but with more selective control. I would also highly recommend Capture NX2 if you shoot Nikon raw. (In fact get the CNX2 Color efex pro bundle if $$$ is not an issue.)
  23. Thanks for the recommendation, Indraneel!
  24. Hi Daniel
    My feeling about the image on your post is that it's suffering from a serious lack of Vitamin D - i.e., sunlight :). Bright sunlight raking across all those surfaces, along with all the resulting shadow areas, would transform the image. It looks like it was shot on a very dull day. While sunlight isn't the be-all and end-all, I feel that any sort of exterior architectural shot isn't very likely to suffer as a result of it.

    I was recently reading about using 16-bit for b & w on this site: http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/digital_black_and_white_printing.html
    I'd been printing 8-bit b & w files on an Epson 3880 with excellent results. Then, a few days ago, in what I thought were very good-quality image files there was a touch of posterisation visible in the clear sky area on my A3 prints. I'd only made very minor tweaks to lighten the skies a little, but in both cases it looked a bit like a rainbow, so I went right back to the original raw files and started again and the skies then printed exactly as they should have been. The use of 8-bit files in the first place was due to my ignorance when using ACR in Photoshop CS5 during conversion. I'm shooting with a Canon 5D MkII set at large raw, so there's no shortage of pixels to begin with, but it's definitely 16-bit for me from now on. Best of luck with your photography.

    Richard Wotton
  25. use Silver Efex,that's the best BW conversion soft i've ever met.first of all make sure to recover all possible details in CameraRaw,both highlight and shadow.
    IMO a good BW film like photo must be rich in details both in the highlight and shadow,that's to say,you don't get a sky blown out or a shadow with complete darkness
  26. Richard, you were right, it was shot on a fairly flat, overcast day. This was morning cloud cover in Oceanside, CA and I live in Colorado, so it may be some time before I can go back and try again under different conditions. The Epson 3880, BTW, is what I've been looking at as soon as our financial situation improves...thanks for all the advice. Alexander, I just ordered the Nik software--can't wait to get up to speed with it to see if it will help (assuming a good original capture, of course!). Your example is outstanding--HDR is another area that I need to work on--not for the weird effects, but to improve the tonal range as in your example. Thanks!

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