Black and White Conversions, how do you do it?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by fuccisphotos, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. Hi All,
    So one thing on the forum I see a lot of in the image critiques is that people beat up on others for their black and white conversions, particularly those that are just converted into grayscale. So with that in mind, I was wondering how you do yours? Care to share your "recipe"?
    I generally have one LR preset I like that I tweak once applied to the image that I found online for free amongst something like 30 B&W presets emulating different B&W film and paper looks.
    If anyone cares to copy the settings they are as follows:
    Treatment: Black and White
    Basic: Exposure: 0, Fill light: +17, Blacks: +24, Brightness: +125, Contrast: +14
    Tone Curve: Highlights -24, Lights -26, Darks -45, Shadows +42
    Black and White Mix: Red -9, Orange -18, Yellow -22, Green -27, Aqua -19, Blue +9, Purple +15, Magenta +4
    Split Toning: Highlights Hue 53, Saturation 8, balance 0, Shadows Hue 46 Saturation 5
    After this is applied I play with the basic sliders to get the image to where I want it to be.
    00ZSDV-405775584.jpg
     
  2. Like the photo (and the conversion).
    I don't have a "recipe". If somebody has a recipe and gets good results, more power to 'em. But I tend to start from scratch every time. Most of my conversions are done in Lightroom, but a few get done in DxO Optics Pro or elsewhere, perhaps just because I get bored with Lightroom now and then. Sometimes I use the Lightroom black and white setting, then tweak the color channels, and sometimes I move all the saturation channels all the way to the left and tweak the luminance sliders. Usually play with black point and clarity and a couple other settings. And sometimes I play with split toning to get a special effect.
    Life was simpler in the darkroom, well, at least it was for me since I never got really good in the darkroom. But now, we have all these options, I tend to make use of them. On a case-by-case basis.
    Will
     
  3. Vail, that's a cool photo of the little girl. You're certainly more sophisticated than I am in converting color to B&W.
    I use Photoshop CS 5's black and white conversion feature, looking at the different preset filter options- yellow, red, green, etc.- until I find the most pleasing conversion for the particular image. I'll then use a color adjustment layer on softlight, set at about R 111, G 90, B 54, 80% opacity, to add a little warmth and mimic a selenium-toned silver gelatin print.
     
  4. Good shot, Vail. I use Nik Software's Silver Efex to convert to B&W so I don't have a receipt. The software works well for me but the downside is that the new file will be saved as PSD which is much larger than RAW.
     
  5. Hi Vail,
    Great topic! and I really hope to learn from you and others on this.
    I generally start from scratch. I generally crank up clarity, contrast, and saturation. Sometimes I go with negative clarity. I've tried tweaking the color mix. Sometimes turning down orange softens faces, but I really don't have a formula. I wish I had a better methodology. I have noticed that b/w photos can take a fair bit of post-crop vignetting. The same amount of post-crop vignette looks overprocessed and chump on a color photo.
    I really like sepia for photos that capture a moment. I tend to use the LR sepia preset, but then darken the photo (exposure) significantly, crank up split-toning shadows saturation to 50 and highlights to 30, and add a dark border with a graduated filter on each of the four edges. Attached is an example.
    Allan
    00ZSF2-405805684.jpg
     
  6. my 10 minutes to edit ran out...
    for sepias... I usually darken exposure about 2/3 of a stop. This example also had some fiddling with curves. Also, you have to be careful sepias because you can't put them on the same page/spread as normal b/w. When it comes time to make an album, you may have to reprocess stuff depending on what your photos are sharing a page with.
     
  7. I use Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 for my black and white conversions; it's great! You can go to the Nik website and download a free trial.
    P.S. I save my conversions as TIFF's.
    cb
     
  8. Note to Green Photog; your reply makes it sound like you think the only option is to save the conversion as a PSD-this is not the case as there are several choices in format. cb
     
  9. You are right, Charles. My concern is that whether it is PSD, TIFF or else, the file size is much larger (100-200MB) vs a 20MB Canon RAW.
     
  10. Hi Green Photog-just wanted to make sure you knew about the options. When you 'save as', are you unchecking the layers option? This will give you a conversion that's the same size as your original-I learned about that here on Photo.net. cb :)
     
  11. Aside from using LR Pre-sets (and there are many good ones) there is a basic examining of the original photo that will drive the type of adjustments you should make to preserve contrast and proper tonality of the original.
    Here is a great article from After Capture by Ethan Salwen on RAW to B&W conversion.
    Enjoy!
     
  12. I typically start from scratch also. I always up my contrast to my liking and then dodge and burn as I feel needed :)
     
  13. I use NIK from scratch and generally increase contrast and localised (with layer mask) local contrast for black & whites.
     
  14. When you 'save as', are you unchecking the layers option?​
    Thanks, Charles for the tips. A 16 MB CR2 file processed by Nik, saved as layers is 218MB, saved as copy with layers unchecked is 97MB. That's a lot of disk space saved! If there's a way to default "save as" with the layers unchecked that would be perfect.
     
  15. Vail,
    I was trying your settings and I am confused on for the Tone Curve, "Tone Curve: Highlights -24, Lights -26, Darks -45, Shadows +42". I don't understand how to apply these adjustments.
    I too have worked out a basic Black & White conversion for the look I like. From these settings that I have built into a preset. After applying the preset I usually make a few adjustments to the Blacks, Contrast, and Clarity.
    My basic preset in Lightroom is:
    Treatment: Black & White
    Clarity: +75
    Black & White Mix: Red +15, Orange +25, Yellow +25, Green +15, Aqua 0, Blue -10, Purple -10, Magenta +10
    00ZSL4-405869584.jpg
     
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    I like Nik:
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  17. David, I like your mix on your image. I will have to try that some time. For the tone curve I just read out the settings
    listed in the curve section on LR 3. That preset is not one I made from scratch, but rather one I found for free online
    somewhere. Wish I remembered where. When I first got lightroom 2 I went a little preset happy and searched till I
    was blue for good free presets. Now I make many of them myself, but this bw one and the "bluish awesomeness" one
    I have mentioned before on pnet tend to still be favorites of mine.
     
  18. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I don't think the tools matter nearly as much as understanding what looks good. I think Ian's photos show this well, I suspect his would be similar if he used LR. However, I think using one preset or one PS action is what makes for bland photos, because every photo needs to be looked at individually, as a few people have pointed out. I use both Nik Silver EfEx and the controls in LR, depending on the photo, but never find that one setting works for more than a few photos.
     
  19. it

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    I agree with Jeff. No 'magic bullet' like lots of people are looking for. I couldn't find a single preset in LR that worked for me.
    There are some decent PS options as well. These are both converted in CS5.
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    And this is from Nik as well.
     
  20. I didn't really expect that there would be a magic bullet, rather it would be good to share with people your over all process. 99% of the images I apply that preset to are then tweaked to make sure I get a good tonal range. For those out there that aren't sure what that means, it means that the image has a true black black and a true white white. I'm really picky about good tonal range because back in the day using B&W film and developing in the dark room my teacher was REALLY picky about that. The shot's subject matter really dictates how contrasty I make the image. Also depending on the image, I like lots of black clipping, in others, I want to make sure all the details are maintained in the shadows.
    Generally for my workflow, if I'm able to do something in LR, and do it well, then I will do it in LR rather than in photoshop because that is just one more step to take by going into another program. But for example, if something like a wire needs to be cloned out of a shot, I will probably do it in photoshop, because the cloning and healing tools there are just so superior to those found in LR. I know I can apply a gradient map in photoshop that does a pretty good B&W conversion in photoshop, but haven't found that the results are THAT much better than the ones I get in LR.
    For those that regularly use it, how does using NIK fit in with your workflow?
     
  21. Thanks, Charles for the tips. A 16 MB CR2 file processed by Nik, saved as layers is 218MB, saved as copy with layers unchecked is 97MB. That's a lot of disk space saved! If there's a way to default "save as" with the layers unchecked that would be perfect.​
    Flatten the layers and save as a JPG. As long as you have the original file it really should not matter how the file is saved. All you are interested in is the result and you can go back later and redo the image if necessary if you have the original.
    Disk space is cheap. I can get a 1TB drive for $50.00. I have an external docking station that I can easily swap drives in and out. So saving large files is no longer an issue in my opinion.
     
  22. For those that regularly use it, how does using NIK fit in with your workflow?​
    NIK fits in very well. I export the RAW file from LR to PS, run NIK, merge all layers and save it as PSD. The file will appear in LR right away. I still need to adjust the exposure, black, etc a bit but it's as close to the magic bullet as possible. I only use about 5 types of NIK conversion even though there're many more than that.
     
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    I use Nik plug in directly in Aperture. Then export to CS5 for tweaking and conversion to client jpg.
     
  24. I also don't use a recipe. I do use Topaz software to help me with detail and contrast.
     
  25. Sorry - file too large - here we go again.
    00ZSVI-406095584.jpg
     
  26. Nik Silver Efex 2.
    Workflow: Nik is a plug-in for Lightroom, Aperture and Photoshop. I mostly use it in LR. When I want to convert to B&W I just select Open In: "Nik Efex" from the LR menu, process the image, and save it next to the original back in the LR Library.
    If I have other retouching requiring layers or some tool not available in LR I select Open In: "Photoshop" from the same LR menu and then convert it to B&W using the Nik PS plug-in located under "filters" ... which is then all saved to the LR Library next to the original.
    I do a LOT of B&W and this is the fastest workflow for the results I want that I have been able to find. Many of the Nik Presets are a good place to start because you can run your curser over each and see their effect real time on the display sized image rather than a little thumbnail. Then select one that has the feel and make adjustments. Nik has better, more comprehensive selective tools than PS for working on areas.
    Some folks have difficulty with B&W looking dull because their mid-tones are to flat ... if you ever spent a lot of time in a B&W darkroom, you tend to learn what a B&W tonal range should look like.
    00ZSbw-406185584.jpg
     
  27. Wow Marc, BEAUTIFUL conversion and great image composition to start with. Thanks for the explanation of the workflow with NIK. I may have to check it out!
     
  28. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I use the same LR-based workflow with Nik as Marc. Works great for me.
     
  29. I also use the Lightroom/ Silver Efex Pro 2 combination and have have very nice results.
    00ZSfM-406251584.jpg
     
  30. Like this:
    00ZShE-406283584.jpg
     
  31. When I saw the title, my mind immediately jumped to an old post by Marc Williams:
    http://www.photo.net/wedding-photography-forum/00DQR3
     
  32. David, thank you. That was a cool post. Neat conversions there too. So many ways to do something ya know. All have different effects. So often our clients just have no idea how different a B&W image can be from the same original color shot. =) So much more than just flipping it over to grayscale, it seems like a whole other art in and of itself.
     
  33. Paul, beautiful shot and conversion!!!
     
  34. I like playing around with Power Retouche's Black/White Studio. You can mimic various black and white film responses. I like Tri-X, because that's what I'm used to. Notice the green response is different between the two examples.
    http://powerretouche.com/Black-white_plugin_tutorial.htm
    00ZSrp-406425584.jpg
     
  35. One thing that hasn't been touched on here is how the choice of camera affects B&W conversions. Since I do so much B&W work, and have owned so many different cameras, I've taken note of which are easier to do B&W with.
    For example, I used a Nikon D3/D3X prior to switching to Sony A900s ... where the Nikon mid-tone response was conducive to punchy B&W, at first I struggled with the Sony due to a much flatter mid-tone response. The Sony A900 is somewhat known for wonderful color right out of the camera, but all those subtile color separations just flattened out when converted to B&W. It took sometime to finally get the right recipe for B&W thanks to the huge array of presets in Nik Silver Efex as a starting point.
    Likewise, while the Leica M8/9 rangefinder is a bit more difficult when dealing with color compared to the Sony A900, it produces wonderful B&W work with far less effort ... especially the M8 which is quite troublesome with color due to a weak IR filter, but is still perhaps the best B&W camera I've yet to use ... followed closely by the M9. Both of these cameras are CCD type sensors and have no AA filter over the sensor. Some B&W shooters actually have the filter removed from their digital cameras which really shows up well in B&W.
    Here is a M9 ambient shot done with a M35mm lens ... for me, deep rich blacks that still have detail, and bright areas (like the lamp shade) that also record some tonal detail is the objective. One other little trick I often do is use the color balance tool in PS to add 4 points of blue which increases the feel of contrast a bit.
    00ZSzZ-406553584.jpg
     
  36. I understand the basic principles of mid-tone contrast and using color sliders. I've put this in practice and really enjoy how much more power and control we have now than in the darkroom days. Still, I see many images that I envy and would like to improve my game.
    I just started reading "Black and White -- From Great Snapshots to Great Shots" by John Batdorff. It seems to be very insightful and very well written. It is written from a landscape point of view... and no way am I a landscape photographer... but he explains things clearly and has insights I haven't seen elsewhere. I believe I'll learn a lot from it.
    The book strongly recommends Nik Silver Efex Pro. I was planning to purchase this. Having read responses to this post and sections of Batdorff's book, I'm pretty convinced I'll be buying Nik SEP soon.
     
  37. I agree with a few of the above posts. I start from scratch on almost every b&w photo. I like to use the Lightroom black and white setting, then tweak the color channels. You can check out my work here :)
     
  38. Well I use the channel mixer followed by enhancing local contrast to tweek the image some more followed by toning if needed. I tend to work individually on each image rather than have a set formula.
     
  39. Ok here is the correct image.
    00ZTJz-406815584.jpg
     
  40. Here is another version note the flower is better separtated from the others. This is more correct but I could not use as much red channel during the conversion for this I just desaturated the image so I had to work quite hard to get the skin tones back to how I like them.
    00ZTK5-406817684.jpg
     
  41. I am trying to upload a jpg that shows my process, but I don't know if it will work.
    00ZTVw-407021584.jpg
     
  42. I've tried for years to use a 'recipe' in my conversion process with the same 'just don't work' effect. I've come to realize that a lot of times it really depends on the situation and the subject. I've been using my left calibrated eye and gut with pleasing results. YMMV.
    KM
    00ZUmA-408219684.jpg
     
  43. Just an update, I now use Jared Platt's actions in lightroom and they are fairly good, and just started out using alien skin's Exposure 4 which has some amazing B&W conversions. Look so much like film!
     

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