It’s More Than Just Black and White

First of all, I would like to THANK everyone who left wonderful comments and birthday wishes for me. Although I wasn’t thrill nor thankful for being another year older, your comments warm my heart and soul. 😀

But… for some reason, I seem to hit another creative roadblock. Maybe it’s the thought of getting older and feeling like my life is passing by or perhaps it’s the rainy weather; whatever the reasons maybe, I seem to have lost my desire to shoot anything lately. I know I get these creative roadblocks in the past and have always overcome it eventually. I’ve been trying to deal with this lack of motivation since my birthday post and unfortunately, I feel the need to take a break from WordPress and posting a bit longer — maybe another couple of weeks. Thanks again everyone… I really appreciate your kindness and supportive friendship.


My Thanksgiving Birthday Wish

Every five to six and sometimes as many as eleven years, my birthday falls on Thanksgiving. The day most Americans get together with their family and friends to over indulge on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams etc.  And of course to rejoice and feel thankful for whatever is important.  For me, this year I get to celebrate both Thanksgiving and my life at the same time.

Even though I am another year older and wiser; there are still a lot of things in life that seem so uncertain and difficult to understand. But one thing is for sure… time flies quickly regardless if you are having fun or not. Though, I’m glad to say — on this cloudy thankful day, I had a lot of fun doing what I love. So here is my Thanksgiving Birthday wish…

“May the wind always be at my back and the sun upon my face.
And may the winds of destiny carry me aloft to dance with the stars.”

The Many Shades of Black & White

Even though it has been many years since I developed that very first roll of b&w film, I can still remember the fascination and excitement I felt when I saw the image slowly came to view — as I gently swirl the tray of developing solution. While I truly miss this development process of old school photography — in addition to the complex challenges of working in a red light darkroom; I discovered creating b&w images using today’s sophisticated darkroom software definitely has a lot of advantages over the old school — though not without it’s own challenges. In fact, I think because of the software’s capabilities, it’s more difficult to achieve good results without having some understanding of the basic principles of black and white photography. Perhaps it’s my fine arts background, but I find that processing b&w photography is like creating a pencil drawing; besides the composition, you need to keep your mind on the light and dark, but also the gradual shades of gray in between.

Today’s post, I thought I would share my “darkroom secrets” and demonstrate how I turn a color image into black & white using Adobe Lightroom3.

This is the original straight out of the camera image. ISO: 200; 250mm; f/6.3; 1/400 sec. Before you begin, create a virtual copy of the image you want to process. That way, you always have the original as a reference.

Step 1: Crop and convert color image into b&w

Usually, I try to compose and shoot an image while in camera instead of cropping during processing. However, for this image; the extra space on the top and bottom seems more distracting. By cropping the image to 1×1, the composition focus more on bright lights, the grapes and surrounding texture.

Using the Lightroom presets: General – Grayscale, convert image into b&w. The preset gives me the basic adjustments and I can then start from there to make the necessary adjustments I need to get the result I want to achieve.

Once converted, I refer back to the color image to see the differences and values. I see that the b&w image lost the lights and warm glow from the sun. The grapes are too dark and  also lack contrast.

Step 2: Adding light and contrast.

In the develop module, I made the following adjustments:

Tone Curve
Highlight +60
Lights +54

Below the Tone curve is the b&w mix section. This is where you can darken or lighten an area depending on the color of the area before conversion. To lighten and bring out the details of the grapes even more, I moved the red level to +50. This lightens the areas of the b&w that contains red. And if you want to darken then move the level to minus. This section gives you control over light and contrast based on color of the original image.

Black & White Mix
Red +50

While I think the overall tone is good, it still doesn’t quite have the sunlight glow feel to it. Also, I like to add color to my black and white. I know… but some images look better with some color toning to it rather than just shades of black & white. And this is where the split toning section comes in handy. However, do keep in mind when using split toning that the colors matches your subject and the environment you want to create. In this case, I chose green and brownish purple which compliments the subject and the tones are warm red and green rather than cold tones of the same hue — which would give you a totally different feel. I also find that by adding the tones at this step gives me better control in getting the correct lighting and contrast.

Step 3: Add split toning

Split Toning

highlights: hue = 102; saturation = 16
balance: 0
Shadows: hue = 12; saturation = 18

Once I added the tones, I noticed there are still some areas that need some additional highlight. This is when you want to use the brush tool for spot correction. A little bit goes a long way. It’s easier to add than wasting time erasing. Also, make sure to keep in mind the direction of the light. When you add too much light to areas that’s not possible in reality, it will look fake and unnatural.

Step 4: Spot correction and final adjustments

Brush Tool

Brightness: 25
Clarity: 100
Sharpness: 100
Brush Size: 3.6
Feather: 65
Flow: 100
Auto Mask: On
Density: 75

Once I’m done with the brush, I noticed the overall tone is still a little bit dark. In the basic development section, I increased the overall brightness to +64.

And that’s it! Hopefully you are able to understand my writing and that you find the information helpful. Please let me know if the steps are not clear or if you just have questions about Adobe Lightroom3. Email me anytime… I’m happy to share whatever knowledge I know about the software. 🙂