Thursday, October 6, 2011

Better B&W from colour digital files

Original colour file. On a country road in the Philippines, July 2011. Click on the photo to enlarge.
Grayscale conversion in Photoshop. Skin tones have the same value as green vegetation and the bluish-gray mountains in the background. Low contrast results in a "blaah" image. Click on the photo to enlarge.
Grayscale conversion in ACR. Skin tones are now differentiated from the vegetation and the mountains. Global changes; no localized burning and dodging.  Greater tonal range for a more dramatic look. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Needless to say, a "successful" image is not so much technique as it is a blend of technique and composition. Composition in B&W involves pre-visualization, taking the time (speeded up in the brain, of course, as the decisive moment(s)  are split-second occurence(s), to think through the scene and imagining what the final image is meant to look in its final form, and more critically, all the steps that the image will go through to produce that final image. This is very important because the end result, this "previsualized image", will determine how the image will be shot (which camera, lens and settings to use, flash, filter options, from which point of view, how Photoshop and/or ACR is used, etc). 
Nothing happens by chance; if it seems it does (did), it only seems that way.

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