Black & White

Yep, I’m still gettin’ my learn on.  I’ve been doing the Udemy thing lately.  I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of online learning, but if you work early and have to be in bed before the puck drops, let alone before evening classes start, or have a Squirrel! attention span, then online learning might be worth looking into.  Just sayin’.

The latest one I’m doing is on black and white conversions.  I should note that I bought the Nik Collection a while ago (yes, after it went on sale – I couldn’t afford the $500 something it originally cost), and I also have the Topaz Labs collection, so I do have some good B&W tools at my disposal already.  Here’s the problem, though – the filters always apply things uniformly, and uniform doesn’t always work.

This course shows a bunch of ways, using only what’s already in Photoshop (maybe more, I’m not finished it yet), to basically do anything that the 3rd party plug-ins can do, but with more finite control.

Angel Kiss

This is my first attempt at a fully manual conversion.  I actually shot this back in January, and had I taken this course two months later, this shot would be lost forever – I usually purge my unused raw images at the end of the year, to save some space.  As a colour image, it was…well, meh.  That’s why it sat on my hard drive as nothing more than a raw file for almost a year.  As a black and white, I like it, though!  Please, feel free to chime in with your opinion; it’s the only way I’ll know if I’m on the right track.

I won’t give away all of the secrets in the learning series, but I’ll go through what I did in this image:

  1. Camera Raw colour retouching, siding with keeping it pale (opened as Smart Object so I could go back and re-tune as desired).
  2. Skin/beauty retouching while in colour.  Lotsa layers here – from a great action I picked up for free from Kristina Sherk @ Shark Pixel from a webinar I attended.  The action alone was worth the time spent!
  3. B&W adjustment layer.
  4. Layer over her left finger/thumb to cover up the nail.  You can’t see the hand in B&W, but you could see a shiny nail at the middle-bottom of the picture, floating on its own.  It looked weird.
  5. Curves adjustment on her, focusing on lightening up yellow, as that was the predominant colour.
  6. Curves adjustment on her lips (masked), to basically brighten them up to what can only be described as d*cksucking red.  She had nice pink lipstick on that was completely lost in the conversion.
  7. Curves adjustment on her hair (masked) to bring it from a dirty blonde to a completely unnatural blonde/white.  Again, the hair was mostly lost in the conversion, as it naturally stood.  The light spot on her left side (viewer’s right) was from the strobe – that actually was lit up in the original.

This was just a simple, low-key nude portrait.  There wasn’t a whole lot to worry about, which is why she was my first (yes, it was good for me).  What I found interesting was that I was forced to look at each element of an image in a completely different manner.  Colour is still a major factor, but you have to look at it in a very counter-intuitive manner.  Overall, I loved every minute of it, and I certainly plan on doing more!

Now it’s your turn.  I’d love to hear your opinions on how I did with my first attempt at a full manual, I’d love to see some of your b&w conversions (and if you remember how you did it; manual/Nik/etc., please, let me know), and what you think about B&W’s in general!  (I’m thinking another curve layer to tone the forehead down a little…)

Take it easy, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do…and if you do, take pictures!


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