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B & W conversion retouch critique please

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  #1  
Old 03-03-2011, 11:17 AM
mlerrigo mlerrigo is offline
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B & W conversion retouch critique please

Hi

Would really love some criticism on my black and white conversion. I have used frequency separation along with dodge and burn and a black and white adjustment layer and would like to know how it looks to you all and if there is anything else that I should do.

Thanks
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File Type: jpg elinnewest.jpg (78.1 KB, 74 views)
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  #2  
Old 03-03-2011, 12:25 PM
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MBChamberlain MBChamberlain is offline
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Re: B & W conversion retouch critique please

Hi,

Overall pretty nice. Personally, I think her skin is quite smooth enough without doing any fancy techniques to it, just a little clone and heal and you're done.

As far as the B&W conversion goes, it's just a little bit flat. I tend to think the Black and White conversion tool in photoshop (and camera raw, bridge, and lightroom) produces very nice results for a quick tool, but that they still are flat and compromise the sharpness of the image.

I recommend you get to know the channel mixer, it's a far superior tool for b&w conversion. Click monochrome and start with the color mix <70,90,-40,0> and go from there. Ignore the little "you're over 100%" warning that comes up in the dialog box, it's based on an arbitrary number and a (in my opinion) ridiculous assumption.

I also will usually through a curves adjustment layer on top to add a little more contrast, but if you have to move any of your points more than about 5, you need to go back and rework the mix.

Hope that helps,

Cheers,
Michael
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Last edited by MBChamberlain; 03-03-2011 at 07:10 PM. Reason: Noticed a typo
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  #3  
Old 03-03-2011, 03:33 PM
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Repairman Repairman is offline
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Re: B & W conversion retouch critique please

mlerrigo - terrific job; I like that image a lot. That lady will be thrilled with the result.
It would be interesting to see a tritone of that with maybe black and two greys.
R.
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  #4  
Old 03-03-2011, 06:59 PM
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Tony W Tony W is offline
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Re: B & W conversion retouch critique please

mlerrigo I agree with Repairman a terrific job however a couple of things that I would possibly change.

First while you have done a great job with removing lines wrinkles etc IMO you have gone just a tad too far and taken too many years off the lady (however she may be delighted with the result ). Second I would like to see just a touch more detail in the jacket as seen in the original colour version.

Far from seeing the image as flat, on my monitor it looks just right with smooth tonal transitions to the face and wonderful hair highlighting. Again IMO the image would not benefit by an increase in contrast.

Just MHO of course and taste and your mileage may differ
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Old 03-03-2011, 09:00 PM
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MBChamberlain MBChamberlain is offline
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Re: B & W conversion retouch critique please

I'm not sure I stated myself well, when I say flat, I'm not talking about the tonal transitions, those are quite nice, I'm talking about lack of white point in the image. There are only 93 white pixels (out of 540000) and you have to go almost 25 points from white to get to the point where you can find a tonal range that has more than a few stray pixels here and there.

Attached is an image depicting the black point, the perceived white point of this image, and a true white point. Without a true white point, the image is underexposed, and it's contrast suffers as a result.

As I said, it's not off by nearly as much as I usually see, but tweaking that white point up to the 250+ mark would really help this image a lot.

Cheers,
Michael
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  #6  
Old 03-03-2011, 09:53 PM
mlerrigo mlerrigo is offline
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Re: B & W conversion retouch critique please

Guys, thanks a lot! Will try to bring some of a more natural look back to her face and will take a look at the white point issue. My first real try at dodge and burn and frequentcy sep. and knew that the picture needed something. Will post revision tomorrow.
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  #7  
Old 03-04-2011, 03:10 AM
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Re: B & W conversion retouch critique please

Michael,I think I must have misinterpreted your meaning about flat. That coupled with the image you posted made me assume that you were referring to overall contrast.

Not too sure I agree that 'without a true white point the image is underexposed' the main interest in this image is obviously flesh tone and IMO rarely do you want to go to a high value here i.e. if you want to retain at least some semblance of detail.

Assuming that you are looking at making a white point adjustment and move the whitepoint slider left towards the end of the histogram then IMO you will also need to lock the curve down up to the three quartertone to retain depth and modelling on the flesh values.
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Old 03-04-2011, 10:33 AM
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Re: B & W conversion retouch critique please

Tony,

That's not what I'm suggesting at all... You're absolutely right, if you just haphazardly adjust the white point slider, you're going to compress your flesh tones and destroy the image.

I'm a proponent of using the channel mixer method, which allows you to use data from all 3 256 bit channels to create a single, robust, black and white image.

Pull up the version I did, and run your eyedropper across the forehead, you'll find that it has a range of about 50 points, from about 250 to about 200. The original has a tonal range in the same area of about 40 points, from 215 to 175.

It is very important that you not blow out the skin when converting to black and white, as you pointed out, the tonal variations are a key to a portrait. But, I would argue that when you're dealing with black and white, they do not, and should not, need to be accurate.

If we consider the basic physics of vision, accurate tones cannot replace color information. At it's heart, human visual acuity is based on contrast. When we see something in color, we see it's contrast based on the cones, which can see a wide spectrum of light giving us a wider variety of data within which to detect contrast. When viewing grayscale, we're using perhaps a quarter of the available data because we only have brightness to work with. The same effect as when we use the rods in our eyes to see at night.

This can be demonstrated by the first image below, on the left, thanks to the color, you can see the circle, on the right, is the grayscaled version of the same image...because the tones are the same, you can't see the circle at all.

Producing an image with accurate tonal ranges within a black and white means that you are only using a portion of the information to reproduce the scene. Black and white is not about accurate portrayal. It's about the artistic interpretation of the whole range of vision into a very narrow band.

To demonstrate, below are two images, the first is an accurate portrayal of this model's dark skin. This image, while accurate, is badly underexposed as a black and white image, the detail in her skin, the background, even her eyes suffers as a result. The second image is an black and white image produced with the channel mixer, artistically interpreting the scene in a way that provides similar detail to the original color version.

The keys to this conversion are the existence of a true white point (both her eye catch lights and the white on her dress), a true black point, a good tonal range in the skin without blowing it out, and improved texture in her hair, clothing, and in the background foliage.

There are times when you don't want a true white point or true black point in an image, but they are rare and almost never apply to portraits.

Sorry to go on and on, but I wanted to explain myself properly.

Cheers,
Michael

PS I can't tell you how much I appreciate being able to have a calm discussion about a photographic issue, if I tried this on some of the other forums I'm a member of there would have be defamatory remarks about my mother three posts ago
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File Type: jpg compare.jpg (17.3 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Ariell_Gray.jpg (63.6 KB, 15 views)
File Type: jpg Ariell_True.jpg (79.6 KB, 19 views)
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  #9  
Old 03-04-2011, 12:14 PM
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Re: B & W conversion retouch critique please

Quote:
Originally Posted by MBChamberlain View Post
......I'm a proponent of using the channel mixer method, which allows you to use data from all 3 256 bit channels to create a single, robust, black and white image.

Black and white is not about accurate portrayal. It's about the artistic interpretation of the whole range of vision into a very narrow band.


PS I can't tell you how much I appreciate being able to have a calm discussion about a photographic issue, if I tried this on some of the other forums I'm a member of there would have be defamatory remarks about my mother three posts ago
Hi Michael thanks for your thorough and thoughtful response - I too appreciate calm discussion which I think is more appropriate on internet fora. All too easy to be nasty and disrespectful hiding behind the anonymity of the net - something that many individuals would not have the balls for in face to face discussion.

I tend to agree with the majority of the views you expressed although I am not a particular proponent of any one method of conversion - as long as it gets the job done is the way that I proceed. For instance many techniques including channel mixer apply global correction when sometimes all that is needed is either broad or local correction.

Anyway as this happens to be a portrait (and I hope the OP does not object) I had a quick try using a method I often use with flesh tones i.e. just use the Green channel as the starting point. In this case the Blue channel only could serve as a good starting point (never to happy with blue due to noise). The only change I made was a small move in curves on the white point and to me at least this looks to be a pretty good starting point for further local correction.

We also need to qualify how the final image is to be viewed either on screen or print. On my screen this image looks pretty good and I would not like to see any overall changes in contrast - perhaps just a few local changes to improve luminosity.

Of course I accept that others may not agree with this and prefer a more or less 'punchy' image

Cheers
Tony
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  #10  
Old 03-05-2011, 12:01 AM
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MBChamberlain MBChamberlain is offline
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Re: B & W conversion retouch critique please

The version in your last post, though less "punchy," as you put it, than mine meets what I consider to be the minimum criteria of a black and white photo: a black point, a white point, a wide range of tones in between and good gradation without any harsh tonal shifts where there aren't natural edges. The "punch" is the subjective part, and I have seen very beautiful images with very low "contrast" that still meet the criteria above. This photo of Ken Moody shot by Robert Maplethorpe is an excellent example.

I will point out that you used the channel mixing technique, though it sounds like you did it manually and only used one channel. And you're right, in digital photography, green will always be your cleanest channel because it has twice as many dedicated pixels on the sensor.

My preference for brighter images and harder contrasts comes from spending so much time in a dark room, and wanting to emulate the beautiful simplicity of real black and white imaging. I really do hate the black and white tool that Photoshop includes, mostly because of the inherent limitations of using color zone toning based on tonal compression.

When working in a black and white space, we have only a small portion of the data we have in a color space, further compressing that small amount of data when you don't have to feels like I'm violating the integrity of the image. In my work flow, I don't make any tonal shifts at all after the black and white conversion. In fact the only two things I'll do above the conversion layer is sharpening (via desaturated high pass) and adding grain. Dodging, burning, contrast adjustment, color adjustment (I use a selective color layer to achieve the same kind of range based control the black and white tool provides) and, of course, all other retouching are done on the original layer or in between the original layer and the channel mixer layer.

I quite agree that you should not limit yourself to a single tool, and be open to using any technique if it is effective. But the longer I have worked with the channel mixer (going on 13 years now) the more things I have discovered it can do, and the fewer alternate techniques I find that can't be emulated with higher precision and less data destruction with the channel mixer at the top of the stack. (I just thought I should explain what I meant by "proponent.")

Again, I have greatly enjoyed discussing this with you, and hope that we haven't bored the OP to death by discussing it on his thread.

Cheers,
Michael
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