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Painting Black And White.

Try Long Exposure. Long exposure shots should 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 required , 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). naturally , when exposures extend beyond regarding 1/60 sec a tripod is wanted 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.

Take Control. Although coloured filters should still be used to manipulate contrast when shooting digital black and white images, it’s more prominent to save this work until the processing stage. Until a few years ago Photoshop’s Channel Mixer was the favored means of turning colour images monochrome, but now Adobe Camera Raw has more strong 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 one 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 subtle gradations can become unnatural looking. And adjusting the brightness of a red or pink 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 different colours.

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 away 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 lackluster straight from the camera. fortunately , it’s possible to work adjust the brightness of these two colours separately 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 forceful blacks and whites. This can 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, may 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 greatest composition.

Shoot RAW + JPEG. The unsurpassed monochrome conversions are met 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 picture 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. numerous 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 routine 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 may also do this if they activate his camera’s live suspicion scheme , but the usually slower responses mean that most will find it preferable or check the image on the screen post-capture.

Use Filters. Graduated neutral density (AKA ND grad) and polarizing filters are purely as useful in monochrome photography as they are in colour. In fact, because they manipulate image contrast they are arguably more useful . An ND grad is helpful when you want to retain detail in a bright sky while a polarizing filter may be used to reduce reflections and boost contrast. Alternatively, put down as,take for,account,reckon,treat,adjudge,size up,value,rate,gauge,sum up,weigh up taking two or more shots with different exposures to create a high dynamic range (HDR) composite. Don’t be anxious 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 single will lighten foliage.

Dodge and Burn. Dodging and burning is a procedure 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 could only ambition of because you should target the highlights, shadows or mid-tones with both. This means that you may use the Burn tool to darken highlights when they are too bright, or the Dodge tool to perk up them to increase local contrast. It’s a good fashion of sharing a sense of superior sharpness and enhancing texture. Plus, because you can set the opacity of the tools, you could build up their effect gradually so the impact is crafty and there are no hard edges.

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Once you’ve painted a shape that you’re pretty happy with, it’s time to start adding in some values. When doing this I don’t tend to use any values that are too bright or too dark, I like to keep things subtle while I’m building up the shape. I keep things pretty sketchy and gently add in some subtle shadows and highlights to find the structure of the body.

First things first – I block out the character’s basic silhouette. I always try and keep things fairly rough at this point and avoid going into any detail too soon. Whether your character is a little kid or a hulking great giant, this is the time to focus on their shape and try and emphasise their character. Experiment with silhouettes until you find one you like.

Subtle highlights and shadows help define the structure of the body

I’m happy with the shape and structure so it’s time to add in details. This is one of my favourite stages and I could happily detail characters all day long. I start to add in those dark shadows and bright highlights to really bring out the form of the character. I stick with a fairly small soft brush, sketch in and then build up those details, refining as I go.

Painting in black and white is great, because it makes you concentrate on elements such as composition, value, lighting and form. Of course, colour is a vital step, but the benefit of black and white is that you can focus on the image as a whole.

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I start out with a simple silhouette and then build up to a refined design. This technique also makes creating any variations on the character very simple too, because there’s no need to worry about interfering with any colours you’ve painted.

Remember to try and vary the values you’re choosing. You can use bright white highlights right through to dark greys and black. If you just stick to the middle ground and only use grey it can make things look a little flat.

Most of the time I opt for a black and white process. Here, I’m going to use the example of a character design, and run through some simple painting techniques you can use to get your black and white designs up to scratch.

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Painting in black and white means you can focus on the image as a whole and resolve any glaring issues before you get to the colour stage. From here it’s pretty easy to just keep building up the detail until you’re ready to either go to colour or simply leave it as black and white.

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 100.

Illustration How painting in black and white can improve your art How painting in black and white can improve your art

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