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Opinions on a Black and White Technique

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  #1  
Old 04-13-2008, 06:41 PM
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AFrazier AFrazier is offline
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Opinions on a Black and White Technique

Attached are a before and after of my cat, Winston. I've been working for some time on a black and white technique that will hopefully be relatively universal. This is one example of that effort, and I was hoping to get some feedback on the photograph (some opinions on composition), and the quality of the black and white image, as per the developed technique.

Since this is the first thread I'm posting in here, let me say (in accordance with the guidelines), that I have roughly twelve years experience with Photoshop. I've been using it since version 4.0. I've also been into photography for a while. While I'm relatively new to this forum, I'm not new to photo restoration, repair, photography, etc.

The image, prior to the black and white conversion, began with a few touch-ups. I opened the fill lights in camera raw to bring out the details in his fur. I also adjusted the temperature to about 6500°.
In Photoshop proper, I sampled a piece of the wall (Filter-Pattern Maker) and used the patch tool to blot out the majority of the chair in the foreground. I used the Polygonal Lasso Tool along the edge of the window sill on a new layer and filled it with the same pattern (Edit-Fill-Use: Pattern), and tweaked the shadows and highlights until it matched just right (Image-Adjustments-Shadow/Hightlight). The rest I touched up with the healing brush as needed until the image looked clean.

Now, there are lots of ways people have for converting to black and white. This is my version, and I'm posting it here so I can get some feedback on it. Do take a moment to view the images, and by all means, take some time to try the technique on a few images of your own and see how you like it. I've found that it works on most animals, landscapes, oldies photos, portraits, and just about everything else. I find that it even provides a good platform for sepia toning and colorization.

To convert to black and white, I used the following steps (and you can make this an action by clicking on the Window option and the Actions menu to bring up the Actions pane. Then click on the icon to the left of the garbage can at the bottom, which will say "Create New Action" if you run your mouse over it. Click that icon, name the action something like "Black and White Conversion," and select, if you wish, a hot key to run the action from the drop down menu next to where it says "Function Key") ...

01) Begin by going into the Image menu, under the Mode submenu, and convert the photograph to RGB Color if it isn't already on this setting (if, for example, the photograph was made black and white through a Grayscale procedure).

02) Go into the Image menu, under the Adjustments submenu, and select the Channel Mixer. Click on Monochrome. The default values are sufficient for this step. The Preset will read “Custom,” with an Output Channel of “Gray.” Red should be set to +40%, Green to +40%, and Blue to +20%, for a Total of +100%. The Constant is 0%. Click OK.

03) In the Image menu, under the Adjustments submenu, select Black and White. The Preset you want in the drop down menu of the dialog box is Blue Filter. This will set your Reds, Yellows, and Greens to 0%, and your Cyans, Blues, and Magentas to 110%. Check the Tint checkbox and leave the default values (Hue: 42°, Saturation: 20%). This will change your Preset selection to “Custom.” Click OK.

04) Go back into the Image menu, under the Adjustments submenu, and select the Black and White option again. This time, the Preset you want in the drop down menu is Maximum Black. All of your colors will have 0% values (Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, Magentas). Check the Tint checkbox as before, but adjust the Hue to 25° and the Saturation to 10%. Click OK.

05) In the Image menu, under the Adjustments submenu, select Curves. The Preset you want in the drop down menu of the dialog box is Strong Contrast (RGB). None of the settings will need to be altered. Click OK.

06) In the Image menu, under the Adjustments submenu, select Brightness/Contrast and increase the Brightness to 20. Do not check the Legacy checkbox (though some may be tempted to do so). Click OK.

07) In the Image menu, under the Mode submenu, select Lab Color to convert the photograph to a different rendering type.

08) Under the Image menu, select Apply Image. When the dialog box comes up, Select Channel “b” and check the Invert checkbox. The blending mode you want to select from the Blending drop down box is Vivid Light, with an Opacity of 5%. Click OK.

09) In the Image menu, under the Mode submenu, select RGB Color to convert the photograph back to RGB color mode.

The final step is to tweak the shadows and highlights.

10a) If you are creating an action, go into the Image menu, under the Adjustments submenu, and select Shadow/Highlight. If the “Show More Options” checkbox is not checked, check it, which will open up the full dialog menu. Under the Shadows section, set your Amount to 20%, the Tonal Width to 50%, and the Radius to 60 px. Under the Highlights section, set your Amount to 20%, the Tonal Width to 50%, and the Radius to 60 px. The Black Clip and White Clip at the bottom under the Adjustments section should be set to 0.01 by default, which is fine. The Color Correction and Midtone Contrast should both be set to 0. If they aren't, set them to 0. Click OK.

If the image is too dark, fine tune by repeating step 10a manually and adjusting the shadows slider 5-15% with the same settings in Tonal Width and Radius (don't make any Highlights adjustments).

10b) If you are not creating an action, go into the Image menu, under the Adjustments submenu, and select Shadow/Highlight. If the “Show More Options” checkbox is not checked, check it, which will open up the full dialog menu. Under the Shadows section, set your Amount to approximately 20-35% (whatever looks just right), the Tonal Width to 50%, and the Radius to 60 px. Under the Highlights section, set your Amount to 20%, the Tonal Width to 50%, and the Radius to 60 px. The Black Clip and White Clip at the bottom under the Adjustments section should be set to 0.01 by default, which is fine. The Color Correction and Midtone Contrast should both be set to 0. If they aren't, set them to 0. Click OK.

That should do the trick.

If you find on some very few photographs that the tint is just a touch too strong, you can go into the Image menu, under the Adjustments submenu, select Hue/Saturation, and lower the Saturation until it looks right (though I've only encountered it once).

I'm eager to hear some feedback.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Winston_As_Shot.jpg (99.5 KB, 189 views)
File Type: jpg Winston_Touched_Up.jpg (99.5 KB, 231 views)

Last edited by AFrazier; 04-14-2008 at 07:24 PM. Reason: Clarifying some steps since it got linked to a tutorial page.
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Old 04-14-2008, 11:09 AM
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DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
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Re: Opinions on a Black and White Technique

Generally speaking this is one of the MOST THOROUGH and well written "how to" posts I've had the pleasure of reading since becoming a RetouchPRO member many years ago. Well done. (Can you hear the applause?)

Secondly, as one who is a huge BW enthusiast (see this thread:
http://www.retouchpro.com/forums/pho...yscale-bw.html)

... I was facinated by your method. It's like none other I have seen before. (I will update the noted thread to include a link to this one.)

Great subject (I'm a cat fan) and capture, too. Perfect candidate for conversion to BW.

I really like the results you got, esp. the subtle color tones and the revealed detail from the shadows.

Back to method... As one who doesn't not have the ability to visualize the desired outcome before starting out on a multistep process such as this one, I would be prone to use adjustment layers in steps 02-06 rather than use commands from the Image > Adjustments menu - unless they can be applied to Smart Objects, ground I have yet to cover.

Likewise I'd roll steps 1-6 into a Photoshop action to give me the ability to easily recreate the effect on different images using the default settings and/or tweak settings upon action completion.

Action-wise the Apply Image and Shadow/Highlights steps would present minor challenges. I look forward with experimenting to see how to best integrate/automate these aspects of the process.

Thank you very much for sharing your expertise in this noteworthy contribution to RetouchPRO. I hope we'll be seeing more of your BW methods in the future.
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Old 04-14-2008, 12:00 PM
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DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
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Re: Opinions on a Black and White Technique

It would be helpful, too, if you uploaded the image that was adjusted in ACR and Photoshop beforehand to reveal the detail buried in the shadows. The pre-work done here IMO is as important as the toning effects.
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Old 04-14-2008, 02:25 PM
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Re: Creative Portraits: Nathaniel - Ocean Shores

Danny, That method looks VERY promising!.. It looks GREAT and has lots of depth.. Very Classic.. and I love the tone!
(How 'bout us PS7, PSP users who do not have some of the menu items, any hope?)
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Old 04-14-2008, 02:58 PM
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Re: Opinions on a Black and White Technique

I did actually turn those steps into an action. I just hit F5 to convert, and I tweak afterwards if need be. As I said ... thus far I've only run into the need once. An image was already in such a state of contrast that this process, instead of giving it a mild sepia-like tone, turned it rose instead. So I lightened the saturation a bit. And sometimes step 10 requires the shadows to be a little higher than 20% (sometimes as high as 35%) depending on the picture (I'll post one shortly to demonstrate). Outside of that, I haven't really had any problems so far.
One thing I am thinking about that I might want to begin the process with, though, is a conversion to grayscale. That would put any and all images on the same gray balance prior to conversion, making the results a little more uniform.

Here also is the post-adjustment/pre-conversion of the photograph. I didn't even think about that, but you're right. If someone wanted to try it to reproduce the results, it might be nice to give them the final product (color-wise) that I'm displaying.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Winston_Raw_Adjusted.jpg (98.6 KB, 55 views)

Last edited by AFrazier; 04-14-2008 at 03:36 PM.
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Old 04-14-2008, 03:06 PM
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Re: Opinions on a Black and White Technique

Many thanks, by the way, for your support and encouragement. Feel free to play with the picture, and the site is welcome to use it if they want to (pre or post correction versions).
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Old 04-14-2008, 06:28 PM
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AFrazier AFrazier is offline
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Re: Opinions on a Black and White Technique

This is a sample of a wedding shot I retouched and converted from a cheap grayscale B&W. Because the woman's skin had a dark cast to it, I needed to open the shadows by an additional 15%, as described.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 10935_Before.jpg (99.6 KB, 61 views)
File Type: jpg 10935_After.jpg (99.9 KB, 81 views)
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Old 04-14-2008, 06:51 PM
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D Thompson D Thompson is offline
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Re: Opinions on a Black and White Technique

Thank you very much for a great method. As a fan of b&w I'll definitely add this one.
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Old 04-14-2008, 07:26 PM
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Re: Opinions on a Black and White Technique

Quote:
Originally Posted by DWThomp View Post
Thank you very much for a great method. As a fan of b&w I'll definitely add this one.
I'll take that as a positive that you like it.

Any suggestions on anything that might be a little better (aside from the lab color opacity and shadows adjustment presets in an action)?
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Old 04-14-2008, 09:50 PM
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Re: Opinions on a Black and White Technique

Quote:
Originally Posted by 0lBaldy View Post
Too bad us PS7 users are left out in the cold.. I like the finished look of this process
It can still be done. A lot of the CS3 options and tools are just condensed algorithms of longer processes. Photo filters, for example, can be done the hard way with overlay layers, fills, and opacity.
I still have 7.0 on my computer (I have a bad habit of not deleting old versions of useful programs). I could see if the process (though probably a tad longer) can be achieved through that version. I'll have to play with it.
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