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Thread: Black and White Conversions...

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    Default Black and White Conversions...

    What's your preferred method?
    As we know, there are, literally, thousands of methods out there for grayscale conversions. I know because I've tried most of them!
    What is your choice, and why?

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    Here's a link to a tutorial on my most recent method. It's LR based and takes advantage of the HSL sliders.
    http://photoshopnews.com/stories/dow...scale_STD2.mov
    Why?
    Noise introduction is almost non-existant. It is completely customizeable and the results are very smooth.

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    Bill,

    I've been using a variant on what Martin shows in that video (I have a template made with what I consider my default settings which I apply on import and then tweak to suit the image' needs.)

    I also use Lightroom's grayscale mixer.
    Or a rendering methodology built with Photoshop CS2.. Here's the idea:

    Important:
    When you apply RAW conversion processing, don't make the mistake of presuming that you're going to make a perfect conversion that needs no further editing. Seek to output into RGB *as much data* as your image file contains, and presume you're going to be shaping and manipulating that data later. This means 16bit@channel output to RGB in PSD or TIFF formats.

    The rest of the workflow is at the RGB channel level so applies to DNG, PEF, PSD, TIFF, or JPEG files equally. Of course, if you're working in JPEG files, due to the 8bit@channel nature of the files, editability is less, but that doesn't mean the workflow breaks down. Do a transform in Photoshop to 16bit@channel for editing purposes ... it helps.

    1) Look at the photograph before you begin and decide what you want to do with it. High key, low key ... decide where the IMPORTANT details are and where you are willing to let highlight and shadow detail go away. This is *the most important* step ... You cannnot achieve a goal without knowing what it is.

    2) I apply via a script an Adjustment Layer using the Channel Mixer tool with the settings R=20, G=70, B=5 percents. This is a starting point and not necessarily the best mix for all scenes. You can get a feel for how to manipulate this by turning the adjustment layer off and then looking at each channel in B&W seperately for a moment (the Cmd/Cntrl ~, 1, 2, 3 keypresses let you do this very quickly and easily). Tweak the Channel Mixer settings to suit where you've made decisions about how you want your photo to appear in B&W ... if you have a lot of detail in the Red channel and not much in the Green or Blue, bias the mix to Red. etc.

    3) If the image has several different kinds of lighting in it that changes the ideal mix in different areas, you can either

    - insert Curves adjustment layers under the Channel Mixer layer and tweak the curves for each channel independently, with masking to separate the different areas.

    - Mask the channel mixer adjustment layer and use a second or third one to change the mix, with masks again to localize the differences.

    (I tend to prefer using the Curves technique as I find it easier to compress or expand a tonal gradient with it. In general, I use step three about 20% of the time.)

    At this point you should have a close-to-final rough of your B&W rendering. Up to here, most photos will look like what you get from processing B&W film at a photofinisher. NOW it's time to make your image shine. ... Study your image again and identify what needs to be done to reach your goal.

    4) I usually do input sharpening for the full resolution image at this point as it will change local contrasts and edge effects that you want to take into account when doing tonal edits. (This presumes I created the RGB file with Camera Raw, not Lightroom, as I would use Lightroom's tools to do the input sharpening now.) Select the background layer, make a layer copy (no destructive edits to the base image...) and use CS2's Smart Sharpening tools. Small adjustments applied incrementally work best. Watch the important areas of the image at 100 and 200% scalings to detect haloing and artifact growth. Back off when you see them ... they look unnatural. Different images require different sharpenings...

    5) Now, back to tonal shaping. Curves Adjustment Layers with masking inserted *above* the channel mixer adjustment layer will operate only on the grayscale tonality. Again, small steps, one area at a time, with selective area masking ... I watch a particular area, get it the way I want, then fill the mask with black and brush in the adjustment with a soft edged brush and a slow fill rate until I get it the way I want. I build up each area of the photograph in this fashion, a little at a time, merging layers as appropriate when I reach certain points to simplify the document and save space.

    6) Once you have everything done as well as you can manage, the rest of the workflow to render for the web is pretty fast. Be sure to save your work in PSD or TIFF format to preserve all the layers (you should be doing that often throughout the editing process...). I do a profile conversion to sRGB, which auto-flattens the layers and uses the full 16-bit data in calculations. Next I use "Image->Image Size.." and resample the image to either 620 pixels for a horizontal or 530 pixels for a vertical, let the other dimension fall where it may, and set 72ppi as resolution (helps with some of the applications I use that honor the density and sizing information for on-screen display). At this point, you will often notice that the image has gotten a little darker. A Curves adjustment layer to tweak the tonal curve upwards, reflatten again. Sometimes a minor application of USM (.8 pixels, 30-40%, threshold=2) to resharpen. Then use "Image->Mode->8-bit" to reduce it for JPEG output, and "File->Save As..." to JPEG, quality 6.

    You're done.

    The key to good monochrome rendering isn't just to follow a formula or muck with a bunch of different tools. The real work is:

    1) Evaluate the image and understand your goals in rendering it to B&W.

    2) Understand what each of the steps in the process is meant to do so that you can modify the processing to suit a particular image problem.

    hope that is helpful...

    Godfrey

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill_Turner View Post
    Here's a link to a tutorial on my most recent method. It's LR based and takes advantage of the HSL sliders.
    http://photoshopnews.com/stories/dow...scale_STD2.mov
    Why?
    Noise introduction is almost non-existant. It is completely customizeable and the results are very smooth.
    Thanks Bill, excellent find.
    Cheers,
    Don

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    At the moment I must be getting some subliminal retro angst out because I use the 'Black and White' tool in PS3 to convert to B&W and apply photo filters, such as yellow, red, etc. A regression to 35mm film work I suppose.

    But by far the most subtle and beautiful tonal conversion to B&W I have found is to convert the image to Lab mode, then ditch the two 'a' and 'b' colour channels and convert to greyscale. You get the beautiful clear tonality associated with prints from people like Robert Adams and the New Topographic school in general. I'll be going back to this sooner or later myself.

    Steve

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    Godfrey,
    Thanks for the detailed response that took you longer to type than it actually takes to use this method!
    The method I posted a link to is a start. For the final result I typically use most of the methods you described.
    Again, thanks for helping us all open up our eyes to monochrome conversions.

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Don B View Post
    Thanks Bill, excellent find.
    Cheers,
    Don
    You're welcome Don. It's a nice start.

    Quote Originally Posted by 250swb View Post
    At the moment I must be getting some subliminal retro angst out because I use the 'Black and White' tool in PS3 to convert to B&W and apply photo filters, such as yellow, red, etc. A regression to 35mm film work I suppose.

    But by far the most subtle and beautiful tonal conversion to B&W I have found is to convert the image to Lab mode, then ditch the two 'a' and 'b' colour channels and convert to greyscale. You get the beautiful clear tonality associated with prints from people like Robert Adams and the New Topographic school in general. I'll be going back to this sooner or later myself.

    Steve
    Steve,
    Right you are. The Luminance method is very, very good!

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    I always start off by opening in ACR. I add contrast and increase blacks when needed. I then simply convert with ACR.

    Once done with that I open it in Photoshop, and I play around with levels to get exactly the expression I want.
    Olympus E-3 Olympus E400, Oly 14-54, Oly 50-200, PanaLeica 25, 25 Pancake, Oly 14-42, FL-36, FL-50R, Metz AF44, softbox and diffusers, OM-2, OM 28/2, OM 50/1.8, OM 100/2, Vivitar 285, Velbon VEB-3 Tripod
    If your photos aren't good enough - you're not close enough (Robert Capa, who stepped on a landmine and died getting close enough)
    Freelance photographer/journalist and columnist.

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill_Turner View Post
    Right you are. The Luminance method is very, very good!
    This is, in essence, what you are doing with Lightroom using the methodology that Martin Evening outlines in his video.

    Godfrey

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
    This is, in essence, what you are doing with Lightroom using the methodology that Martin Evening outlines in his video.

    Godfrey
    Exactly!

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    I can only afford gimp, so I just play around with the channel mixer. It works great, except that it introduces a lot of graininess that's pretty apparent even in 8x10s. This really only shows up in transitional areas, so you can clean it up with the blur tool if you want, but it takes a long time.

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    I'm also using fairly limited software (PSE2), so I have a simple method: working in Layers I apply a black gradient map, go to Levels and fiddle with the different RGB channels on the base layer, flatten the layers, and adjust contrast again with USM and levels.


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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    I have enjoyed this link immensely and thanks to all of you I have learned a lot in one lesson!! It is never to late for an old geezer to learn I have found.

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Gordon View Post
    I have enjoyed this link immensely and thanks to all of you I have learned a lot in one lesson!! It is never to late for an old geezer to learn I have found.
    Thanks Bill.
    Threads like this, IMO, are important to this Forum. We all learn.

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    Bill,

    I spent an hour or so using a method Mark Gayler attributes to Russel Preston Brown.

    This was developed twice in ACR4.3.1. Once for the clouds and once for the stadiums and ferry. The cloud layer was masked using a gradient layer. Then each layer was converted using two Hue&Sat layers (four total) with the top layer desaturated and the bottom Hue&Sat layer in color mode using the hue slider to adjust how the grays were rendered. Then a levels layer was added to both cloud layer and the other layer to adjust contrast and white and black end points. All told there were nine layers before the image was merged, straitened, resized, sharpened and framed. The basic technique is describe in Mark Galer's Adobe PSE6 Maximum Performance pages 116-119.

    Here is the link to the image:

    http://three-tree-point.blogspot.com...-stadiums.html

    Clay
    Last edited by cstirlingbartholomew; 05-06-2008 at 11:58 PM.

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    A free plugin called Virtual Photographer is worth a look if only because of price. Works in PS and PSP (not sure about Elements). It does a lot more than b&w too.
    Bill Shinnick
    Pana GH1; 7-14; 14-140; 45; FL-36R.


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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    You started me thinking and I came up with this:
    http://forum.fourthirdsphoto.com/sho...454#post329454

    Thank you for starting this thread!

    Luc

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    Quote Originally Posted by bilzmale View Post
    A free plugin called Virtual Photographer is worth a look if only because of price. Works in PS and PSP (not sure about Elements). It does a lot more than b&w too.
    Very nice little plugin, a lot of great (and customizable) effects at your fingertips.

    Jeff

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    Default Re: Black and White Conversions...

    I use The GIMP for my B&W conversions, and prefer the Channel Mixer 30:59:11 combination.

    Also, with The GIMP the default B&W conversions come in 3 flavors, and I only use 2: Average Desaturate & Luminosity Desaturate.

    In the Channel Mixer, there's the Auto Monochrome mode which looks very "vivid".

    A comparison that I did many months ago can be seen here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mfahrur...736024/detail/

    - mfahrur -
    . e-5 . hld-4 . 7-14 . 14-35 . 35-100 . 50 . ec-14 . fl-36r . fl-50r .

    http://thru-the-zuiko.blogspot.com/

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