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Black And White Photo Manipulation.

Shoot RAW + JPEG. The best monochrome conversions are came upon by editing raw files which have the full colour information, but if you shoot raw and JPEG files simultaneously and set the camera to its monochrome photograph Style/Picture Control/Film Simulation mode you get an indication of how the image will look in black and white. As most photographers struggle to visualise a scene in black and white, these monochrome modes are an invaluable tool that will help with composition and scene assessment. most cameras are also capable of producing decent in-camera monochrome images these days and it’s worth experimenting with image parameters (usually contrast, sharpness, filter effects and toning) to find a look that you like. Because compact drive cameras and compact cameras show the scene seen by the sensor with camera settings applied, users of these cameras are able to preview the monochrome image in the electronic viewfinder or on rear screen before taking the shot. DSLR users could also do this if they kick in their camera’s live assumption plan , but the usually slower responses mean that many will find it preferable or check the image on the screen post-capture.

Dodge and Burn. Dodging and burning is a road that comes from the traditional darkroom and is usually used to burn in or darken highlights and hold back (brighten) shadows. Photoshop’s Dodge and Burn tools allow a level of control that film photographers may only hope of because you should target the highlights, shadows or mid-tones with both. This means that you could use the Burn tool to darken highlights when they are too bright, or the Dodge tool to brighten up them to increase local contrast. It’s a good use of giving a sense of superior sharpness and enhancing texture. Plus, because you should set the opacity of the tools, you should build up his effect gradually so the impact is subtle and there are no hard edges.

Look for Contrast, Shape and Texture. The complimentary and opposing colours that bring a colour image to life are all decreased to black and white or shades of grey in a monochrome image and you have to look for tonal contrast to make a shot stand out. In colour photography, for example, your eye would right now be drawn to a red object on a green background, but in monochrome photography these two areas are likely to have the same brightness, so the image looks flat and drab straight from the camera. happily , it’s possible to work adjust the brightness of these two colours discretely to introduce some contrast. However, a great starting point is to look for scenes with tonal contrast. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule look for scenes that contain some powerful blacks and whites. This should be achieved by the light or by the brightness (or tone) of the objects in the scene as well as the exposure settings that you use. The brightness of the bark of a silver birch tree for example, could inject some contrast (and interest) in to a woodland scene. Setting the exposure for these brighter areas also makes the shadows darker, so the highlights stand out even more. Look for shapes, patterns and textures in a scene and move around to find the unsurpassed composition.

Use Filters. Graduated neutral density (AKA ND grad) and polarizing filters are purely as advantageous in monochrome photography as they are in colour. In fact, because they manipulate image contrast they are arguably more advantageous . An ND grad is supportive when you require to retain detail in a bright sky while a polarizing filter should be used to reduce reflections and boost contrast. Alternatively, look on taking two or more shots with diverse exposures to create a high dynamic range (HDR) composite. Don’t be afraid to use a ND grad with a standard neural density filter if the sky is brighter than the foreground in a long exposure shot. Coloured filters, which are an essential tool for monochrome film photographers, may also be useful for manipulating contrast in digital images. They work by darkening objects of his opposite colour while lightening objects of her own. An orange filter, for example, will darken the blue of the sky while a green one will lighten foliage.

Take Control. Although coloured filters could still be used to manipulate contrast when shooting digital black and white images, it’s more common to save this work until the processing stage. Until a a couple years ago Photoshop’s Channel Mixer was the preferred means of turning colour images monochrome, but now Adobe Camera Raw has more forceful tools (in the HSL/Grayscale tab) that allow you to adjust the brightness of eight individual colours that make up the image. It’s possible to adjust single of these colours to make it anything from white to black with the sliding control. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the whole image when adjusting a particular colour as crafty gradations can become unnatural looking. And adjusting the brightness of a red or pinkish shirt with the red sliding control, for instance , will have an impact on the model’s skin, especially the lips. The Levels and Curves controls should also be used to manipulate tonal range and contrast, but the HSL/Grayscale controls allow you to create discrimination between objects of the same brightness but with varied colours.

Try Long Exposure. Long exposure shots may work really well in monochrome photography, especially where there’s moving water or clouds. During the exposure the highlights of the water, for example, are recorded across a wider place than they would with a short exposure and this may help enhance tonal contrast. The blurring of the movement also adds textural contrast with any solid objects in the frame. If compulsory , use a neutral density filter such as Lee Filters’ Big Stopper or Little Stopper to decrease exposure and extend shutter speed (by 10 and 4 stops respectively). typically , when exposures extend farther than with respect to 1/60 sec a tripod is required to keep the camera still and avoid blurring. It’s also advisable to use a remote release and mirror lock-up to minimise vibration and produce super-sharp images.

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This is where things get fun. We’ve just made an anchor point for the darkest and lightest parts of our image, Let’s get a little crazy with everything in between. Use the dropper tool to pick any portion of the image you’d like to adjust (or, since we’re being playful, just grab any point on the line) and make an adjustment. If you like it, leave it. If you don’t like it, slide it back into place. Feel free to tug and pull the curve as you see fit to create the image you’re looking for. After a moment or two of playing this is what we came up with:

The values for that particular tone as well as the entire curve have been changed. The previously slightly gray cup is now shockingly white and the highlights on the chrome of the espresso machine are much brighter (as is the rest of the image). There are some nice subtle changes to the image, such as in the reflections, and the shape of the Bakelite handle of the espresso portafilter is significantly better defined against the background now.  It’s not a bad looking little image, and it’s a lot more visually interesting now than it was before.

What if we went the opposite route, though? What if we dropped the value way down instead of spiking it way up?

For example, in the last image of the previous section of the tutorial, we arrived at a pretty high-contrast image. The whites and highlights were fairly bright and the shadows were quite rich. Since we’ve established that we like high contrast images, the next time we go to use the Curves tool, we can pre-seed our image curve by selecting “Strong Contrast”.  Let’s look at the curve it gives us for that preset:

Have a tip or trick to make convert photos to black and white and make them pop? Join in the conversation below.

We recommend manually playing with the Curves tool for a while until you get a real sense of how changing the curve changes your images. Once you’ve done that, however, you’ll likely find it invaluable to call on the Curve tool presets.

Now that we’ve looked at manual curve adjustments, let’s look at the Curve presets.

If you’re new to reverse engineering modern digital camera photos into black and white ones, we would suggest checking out previous tutorial, How to Convert Your Color Photos to Stunning Black and White Prints, first. In the introduction to that tutorial, we cover the over-arching motives for using advanced photo editing techniques to create great black and white prints.

Let’s see what happens when we add more points to the curve. Go ahead and repeat the process we performed above to select one the lightest points in your photo (like our espresso cup) and then pick darkest point using the same technique. You’ll end up with a dot for the light and a dot for the dark on your curve.

Unlike Levels, where the adjustments you make are applied uniformly across the image, the Curves are applied more granularly, which makes it much easier for you, the editor, to make very subtle changes to the image. If you want deeper shadows, brighter whites, or to isolate a particular shade of blue (now gray) in the sky framed in your photo, for example, you can do so with the Curves tool.

We couldn’t drop it all the way down because that would turn the picture almost completely black. Instead, we dropped it significantly below the starting line (the light gray line indicating the original baseline curve). You can see how it significantly darkens the photo and turns what was a bright coffee shop photo into something moodier. Clearly, the end result is a bit on the underexposed side, but we wanted you to see how dramatically a fairly small adjustment in the curve could change things.

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If you were worried that we had run out of fun tricks in the Curves menu, well, worry no more. We have another handy little trick to help you manipulate the curves and further enhance your black and white images. There’s a big part of the Curves menu pane we haven’t even talked about yet, and that’s the black, gray, and white adjustment droppers at the bottom of the pane.

In the image above, you can see both the base photo and the unadjusted Curves readout of the image. Notice how the line from the lower left to the upper right is a nice clean, straight, diagonal line; our Curves, in other words, are pretty flat. The curves can seem a bit abstract, so let’s pick a spot on our photo and see where it falls on the curve. We’re going to click on the white side of the cup to sample that spot. Note: If you just click a spot and hold it, it will show you the spot on the curve, but if you hold CTRL and click it then there will be a permanent mark on the curve line:

Our work with black and white images makes these tools even more relevant. When we want to create high contrast images and really capture the crispness common in old black and white photos, it’s so easy to do so with a quick manipulation of the black, gray, and white points. Click on each one and select the darkest point in the image, a mid-tone gray point, and the whitest point in the image:

Now that we’ve played with a single point on the curve and seen how it affects everything, let’s reset the curve. Hold down the ALT key and the “Cancel” button in the Curves box will turn into “Reset”. Click to reset the curve back to the state it was in when you opened the menu.

Photos to edit Adobe Photoshop We’ll be using a copy of Adobe Photoshop CS6, but the techniques outlined in today’s tutorial should work just fine in previous editions of Photoshop, as the tools we’re using have been included in Photoshop for years.

For today’s tutorial, we’ll be using a simple photo we snapped of our morning espresso splashing down into the cup. It’s no sweeping view of Yosemite National Park, we know, but we like using low-key photos to showcase techniques because it puts more of a focus on the subtle changes of the technique itself.

We’re going to pick up where we left off in our previous photo tutorial. You have a photo you want to edit, you already converted it to black and white using one of the effective techniques we outlined, and now you’re ready to do some more tweaking.

We took our base image, seen above, and used the default filter in the Black & White adjustment menu to create a fairly neutral black and white base image. We’ll build on that below. What Are Curves and How Can I Take Advantage of Them?

The preset is essentially the curve we had in our prior image (except a bit smoother as it doesn’t have the extra pull on the highlights and lowlights that we put in). You can see how using the presents to jump in the direction you want to go and then finishing the job by making subtle changes to the existing curve is a much faster way to achieve the results you want than reinventing the wheel.

Just like our previous photo tutorial, you will need two basic things:

Because the curve is unadjusted, the input (the lower gradient bar) matches the output (the left-hand gradient bar). If we were to grab that little marker on the curve and pull it down it would darken the value, and if were to raise it then it would lighten the value. Let’s take a look at what happens when we do that in the next section of the tutorial.

How to Enhance Your Black and White Photos with Adjustment Curves

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By following along with the battery of more advanced tips we have rounded up for this tutorial, however, you will be able to take your black and white photos to the next level. You may not edit every photo you take to this degree, but for the ones you really want to massage, manipulate, and otherwise enhance before hanging on your wall, the techniques can add just the right amount of pop to an image.

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Last week we showed you how to convert your color photos to black and white photos. While the tips and tricks we shared with you yield awesome results, we’re back this week to highlight some powerful techniques to take your image to the next level.

Although many people are put off by the complexity of the Curves tool, we hope after a little tinkering you have seen how the extra effort is worth the time and yields really fantastic images.

Curves are possibly the most underused tool in the Photoshop arsenal, and they’re the heart of our tutorial today. Many people are put off of using them because they are not particularly intuitive and there are so many other tools available which are a bit easier to grasp out of the gate.

From here you can manipulate the curve and apply presets just like you did in the previous two steps of the tutorial.

Now, let’s look at that little black dot on that curve. Follow it with your eyes to the left gradient bar, and then follow it with your eyes down to the bottom gradient bar. That dot represents the slightly gray, almost white, value of the cup in the photo.

You can see how, in playing with the curves, it’s possible to capture elements of our earlier two example images. We liked the brightness of the cup but we also liked rich moody shadows. A little fiddling with the curves let us bottom out some of the shadows, spike the intensity of the highlights, and enjoy the best of both.

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