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Old Dec 7, 2008, 8:36 PM   #1
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It's amazing how much control you have when converting color pictures to black and white. There's all sorts of different ways of going about it - some of them will work well with one type of picture but not with another. I've spent today looking around for tutorials and information on the internet, learning about lab color mode (which I didn't know anything about until someone mentioned it in a thread under editors), re-acquainting myself with channel mixer in CS4 (this used to be my favorite method of converting to b&w since you have quite a bit of control), and then playing around with black and white conversion in CS4. This works in a similar manner that greyscale does in Lightroom - you can make any color lighter or darker with sliders. Photoshop goes a step further - there's a number of presets that simulate putting various types of filters on a camera with B&W film. You can simulate IR, what it would have looked like with a yellow filter or a high contrast red filter, etc. That can get you started, and then you can customize the look with the sliders.

I can't decide which of these two pictures I like better. They are similar, but I chose to darken different colors.



To see a more extreme example - here's the original jpg, no pp other than resizing:

Not exactly an interesting picture, but I liked the lines of the steps. It improves with a bit of cropping and converting to b&w. Here I lightened the yellows and made the greens dark.

Here I did pretty much the opposite - I made the greens lighter, the yellows dark. It's a totally different look.

This last picture is just one that I thought came out quite well. I tried a couple of different ways of sharpening as well as playing around with colors for the b&w conversion so I don't remember what all I did to it. But I thought it came out all right.

There's so many interesting ways to make a black and white picture, and I've just scratched the surface. It turned out to be a fun and rewarding way of spending a showery Sunday, and I recommend it to anyone who has some spare time.
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Old Dec 7, 2008, 9:06 PM   #2
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Hi MtGal-

I actually like your #1 Photo the best. Quick enter it in the December competition.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Dec 7, 2008, 9:22 PM   #3
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I like the 2nd one better on the leaf because the leaf stands out more with the lighter background. On the first one, the top part of the leaf is blended with the background and the center of the leaf seems a little bit too hot.

The playground image is kinda hard. On the first image, the pole seems to be too dark but I light the lighter steps.

The mushroom image looks fine to me.

my $.02
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Old Dec 7, 2008, 9:57 PM   #4
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Nice shots Harriet, the biggest issue I have with B&W conversion is detail in the shadow areas along with keeping the contrast high enough in the highlight areas to preserve the detail there.

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Old Dec 7, 2008, 10:12 PM   #5
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Nicely done Harriet. I have been playing with B&W also recently. PSP X2 handles simulating the filters a bit differently, you have a rainbow disk where you choose a color filter effect and adjust strength by how far you move your point out from the center. The end result is the same I imagine.

I am looking at your shots on my wife's laptop, on this screen at least I prefer the second leaf picture, the shadows seem too strong on the first one.

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Old Dec 8, 2008, 10:01 AM   #6
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The playground pictures were posted more to show how much you can influence/change the picture through changing the light/dark aspect of various colors, more than anything else (my playing around). I don't think thepicture isparticularly interesting in any of its configurations, just that the differences were so great. I had thought about also posting a picture that involved a brick walk, but the differences weren't as obvious (light/dark), though the difference in the feel of the picture was much greater.

There are aspects of both of the leaf pictures that I like. I thought about combining them into one shot, then masking out the parts I like/don't like on each of them, but the picture doesn't have clean lines and looked like too much work to do successfully. So I thought I'd see which one you all prefer and why. Looking at them on one of the monitors at work, I don't see as much difference between them as I did at home.

Tom's comment about retaining the contrast without losing detail in either the light or dark parts is true. I started to play a bit with the dodge/burn tools yesterday - in CS4 there's a way to maintain the color tone. So often I found in CS2 that the burn tool would just make things greyer rather than darker, especially with yellows or other light, bright colors, so I never used it or thought about it. It's not perfect even in CS4, but its quite a bit better. I still don't think that you could manage to get the details in the shadows that Ansel Adams achieved in some of his photos, though. There are several of his pictures that I saw at an exhibit at the Bellagio and I was amazed at them - some of the printed pictures in books just don't do them justice.
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Old Dec 8, 2008, 8:04 PM   #7
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Very nice, Harriet. I like the second one of the leaves. There's more detail in the center leaf. The first one looks a little blown out.

And, I love the mushroom. Perfect.

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Old Dec 8, 2008, 9:26 PM   #8
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i like to use LAB mode and HSV sometimes as they can reveal detail in shadows and highlights that are hidden in other methods
sometimes i will combine layers together too to get more detail in different parts of the image
or use one as a mask for dodging and burning

i find on the computer i tend to do global changes to the whole image
where as when i was using the dark room i would dodge and burn specific areas
something i need to try more on the computer

the fungus photo is a real good one
it works real well in black and white
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Old Dec 8, 2008, 10:44 PM   #9
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I understand LAB mode, an interesting option when it comes to color. I've just started exploring it and while I understand what the mode does and why it acts differently, I haven't figured out how best to use it (other than for color changes). I haven't tried using Hue, Saturation and Vibrance (is that what you mean by HSV?) controls to do b&w but can't see why it wouldn't work well - change hue etc. before taking out the color? In Lightroom, the grey-scale options are in the same panel as HSL (they call the third one "Luminance" but it seems to me that it works much like vibrance does).

What I think is interesting is that the first one looks blown out in places on some monitors and not others. It looked a bit hot when I looked at it on my laptop's monitor but it looked fine on a monitor at work. Tonight I added a new monitor to the laptop and thought it looked OK. However, I also noticed that the color was slightly different between the two monitors so I think I'll install the Huey now. I'd like them to match - it bothered me to have the same picture in Lightroom on the laptop's monitor, then have the same one exported and open in Photoshop on the big one, and have the colors slightly different.
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Old Dec 9, 2008, 6:50 AM   #10
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I've been doing quite a bit of fooling around with B&W conversions lately, too. Like Tim, I usually use the B&W Filters set in PSP 12 for conversions, although I've been playing with some of the things you can do with the Smart Brush tool in Photoshop Elements 7.

Like you, I'm constantly amazed at the differences you can achieve with different methods of conversion. I really like your leaves, and the playground photos are very effective in making your point. Well done.

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