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Posts tagged ‘contrast’

Up for Discussions: Images in Monochrome

The Monochrome Madness challenge has been wonderful, yet I am finding many people feel their own work is not good enough, or they don’t really know, or think they don’t know, how to do monochrome images.  I offered to write a post about it.  I thought why not, but I don’t feel like I am in any way an expert on monochrome images, or black and white, so I am going to get the discussion going, and like we did with other discussions, like common mistakes newbies make, I will talk about what I do and give some ideas and hopefully other people will keep adding to the discussion. What happens, I will start the conversation.  The first part is how to choose an image, and the second part will be about how to convert them to black and white.  The post will remain open and as people, you, make suggestions I will add marysville-steavensons-falls-water-monochrome-100-2them to the post.  So please leave what you want to say in the comments, I will cut and paste them.  Remember this is about helping people who have trouble creating monochrome images. Shall we get on with it.

The Image

Textures and Patterns

Not every photo you take will be a good monochrome image, sad but true.  There are things to look for when you are going to convert an image.  Images with lots of textural elements or patterns are great for monochrome, the patterns and textures can laurent-melbourne-littlecollins-building-monochromereally stand out.

Contrast

Really what a great monochrome image needs is lots of contrast.  I am going to try and explain contrast because I know a lot of people say they know what it is and they don’t.  I used to be one of them.  People say to me it doesn’t have enough contrast and it took me years to work out what they meant. So contrast is about the difference between the whites and the blacks.  If you have ever used the threshold on an image, and converted it to just blacks and just whites, then you will find an image with a lot of contrast.  Though the image would look crap, but a good image would have blacks, and whites and lots of shades in between.  What you are looking for are lots of tones, or greys from light to dark.  Often images that don’t have a lot of contrast just look grey royal-exhibition-building-reflection-museumand not very good.

Tones

If you want to know if an image will be good for black and white, look at the tones in the image, the lights and darks, is their enough of a difference. Remember that some colours will have the same tones when converted. For example red and green will have the same tone, and when you convert they may look the same. Dramatic images often lend themselves very well to monochrome as well.

Camera

A couple of people have mentioned how you can take photos in Black and White with a setting on your camera.  One way is to take Black and White photos, but then you loose the flexibility of your image because you can’t make it colour again. The other option is to make your screen show you the preview in B&W. The images are still colour, but you get an idea of what it looks like in monochrome. I don’t do either, but I know people who do.  To be honest, I just don’t think of it.  If you are new to this and learning, then changing your screen to give you the preview could be very beneficial.

Zone System

The zone system that Ansel Adams developed has been mentioned.  I’ve never been able to work it out, but there are others who have read it and used it to get better images.  If you are really stuck, could be good to look at.

Taking Images

It has been suggested that if you have the intention of getting images in black and white, then when you set out to take them, remember that, and look at what you are taking.  Think about whether it will be a good image for monochrome.

From Merilee, her point of view.

The best way to learn the language of black and white is to work only in black and white. And I don’t mean allowing the camera to take black and white images for you. You must go out and take the photograph in color, and really LOOK at what you are shooting. Before you shoot it, you need to train your eye and brain to convert the image from color to black and white in your mind first. After awhile it becomes automatic. You can be looking at a sign that’s in bright colors, but you know instinctively that when you convert that color photograph into black and white, that the colors on the sign will all turn the same shade of grey. You must do this and do it a lot to learn the language. Also, when composing for black and white, it will be different than composing for color. Because your color becomes part of the composition itself. When shooting for black and white you need to SEE the large, dark areas and the large light areas while you are composing. Work like this for two or three years. I’m not talking about a few weeks. This takes years. I know. It’s what I do. All the time…

Chris had similar views as Merilee

Have to agree with Merilee, to some extent. it does help to convert to black and white completely . I did this about 4 years ago and only shoot for black and white images as an end product, unless some one asks me to do specifically colour for family shots or something like that.

I shoot with a Nikon and preview only in black and white when out and about, I use the histogram a bit when out . The images a raw colour images though. Lightroom is the program I use for conversion, just my preference, presets are good to get a starting point, then the B&W sliders , contrast and lights and shadows sliders used a lot, and the tone curve box fro very subtle changes , lights out – to isolate the image on the screen , then export to PS for resizing and a little sharpening maybe .

Sometimes I use PS for doging and burning using layers.

From Dan

As you know, I “convert” several of my seascape images to B&W. Seascapes are difficult due to lack of contrast in water. I find that adding other elements (clouds, sand, rocks, people, etc…) to be very effective. The key is the light… the sun’s direction and height specifically. Midday sun can be too flat, but early morning and late afternoon (just after/before golden hour) can be a great time to shoot. Look for clouds to add drama, shading on rocks, and wet sand for some glimmer. Here in San Francisco, I like to go out in the early morning. It’s typically overcast which softens the light. Remember that the sun is still shining through those clouds adding that much needed contrast. You just have to figure out its direction.

My final tip is to know what your goal is “before” you push the button. Visualize your final image in B&W. It becomes easier with practice, but an important goal, nonetheless.

Converting to Black and White

Simple Editing

There are so many ways of converting images, and it really is an individual thing.  There is no right way or wrong way of doing it.  You can do what works for you. apollo-bay-funghi-rainforest-monochromeThe most common thing to do is to reduce the saturation and take out all the colour in the image.  You can go to the menu and find where you can convert it to greyscale. They are the two most common ways that I can think of to convert your images.

Black and White Adjustment Layers

Photoshop has an adjustment now that allows you to convert them, you can click that and your image is monochrome, then you can adjust the individual tones in the image to make them darker or lighter, according to how you want them.  It is one of my preferred methods of doing the conversion.  I will often give the contrast slider a little push as well for extra effect.

From Judy

On choosing what to convert, I am not sure I do. I think the picture choses. Crazy I know but I just see it and must convert!! For me using Photoshop or taking advantage of such software as Silver Efex, I find the starting point of color very powerful. Once you are in a neutral black and white stage, you can use sliders to lighten and darken various colors in the scene. For example green leaves with lighter yellow areas can be separately lightened or darkened to give highlight and interest to the leaves. Once I like the look of the image, then I can take that composite as a black and white with no more help from underlying color and adjust lighting and contrast in various ways so the final image has a nice mood. If you love nuances of light on just about anything, water, rocks, leaves, trees, birds…then a black and white treatment will always be a wonderful temptation.

Toning

From InfraredRobert

However the photographer goes about the conversion, don’t forget that when all is said and done, you can still use one more ‘trick” from the old days of printing on paper – specifically: Do you want a warm tone or cool tone image? Often this final step (by using a photo filter in PhotoShop) really gives a nice finishing touch to a monochrome image.

Plugins

There is also lots and lots of software that will help you get that black and white effect.  You simply open your image in them and hey presto there is your black and white image.  There are many around, with the most popular one being apollo-bay-treetops-rainforest-monochromeSilver Efex from the Nik Collection. I know Topaz Labs also have one, but I have never used it, so I don’t know what it is like. They usually have a heap of presets, to help you decide exactly how you would like your image to look.

Actions

I have also seen some actions that when you apply them they will make your image black and white, however you need Photoshop to use them, though I believe you can also use them in Elements, but I’m not positive about that. You can often pick up an action quite cheaply or a bundle of them.  I am experimenting with doing them, perhaps I should do one for people.

Other Software

From Victor

Another piece of software for Mac uses is MacPhun’s Tonalality. It’s got lot if bells and whistles that make it easy and fun to use.

Conclusion and Photos

I am leaving it there, so I am hoping those that are much better at monochrome will help add more information. What little tips can you give people who want to get better at doing them?  For those of you who want to learn how to get better images, try looking at more monochrome and if you don’t like an image see if you can work out why, or why the black and white doesn’t work. I am not going to put everything in the article, so you should also read the comments, as people might add information to what I’ve already said. All the images today are ones I’ve done in monochrome.  I am fairly certain they have been on the blog before, some for monochrome madness, and some just, well just because I wanted to. If you look at the file names and see SEP in it then it usually means that it was done in Silver Efex.

Up for Discussion – HDR Photography

Love it, or hate it, it seems to be everywhere at the moment, and has been for the last couple of years.  I did my first HDR image back in December 2011.  I believe this was the first HDR image I put on the blog.

schealesville_hdr1It would have been done with Photoshop, I didn’t get software for doing HDR until later.  I look at it now, as I do most of my early attempts at HDR and just cringe.  The colours are over saturated, they have a very surreal effect to them.  I am not sure that it is what I was after at all.

These, as I said, HDR is everywhere, some are good, some are bad.  I’m not saying which, but I thought we could talk about it here.

So what is HDR?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  The idea of it, well my understanding, is that it will take the bright areas of an image and the dark areas and make an image that looks more like what we see with our eyes.  If you have an image, that has a very bright sky in it, behind a building or something like that, and when you take the photo the sky just takes over and everything else, like the building end up black, or a silhouette the an image like that is perfect for HDR.  You would take a series of bracketed images, so all taken at different exposures.  Then software like Photomatix Pro would take all those images, and make the best possible image.  I don’t know how it does it, but the dark areas will have detail and the light areas won’t be so blown out.

Let me show you in pictures.

This is the main dining hall at Montsalvat.  It is a very dark room.  You can see that looking at it now you can see what is out the window, but you can’t see what is inside.

This is the last photo of the bracketed shots, you can see a lot more detail inside the image now, but everything out the window is all blown out.

This is what the HDR software did to the images.  You can see both inside and out now.

When I first started doing HDR, I would make every image one.  I don’t do it anymore, and actually hardly seem to do it much now.  I find myself using single images, or if I do do a HDR I will only use part of the image.

When I look at images these days, I can nearly always tell if they are HDR, there are little things that give them away.  There is often a grayness to them, I’m told by Victor that is a lack of contrast.  There are often Halos, though halos can come from other things, but most often it is with HDR.

Victor Rakmil has written a post just recently on HDR Photography which you might like too.  He goes into the technical aspects of it more than me and gives more detail about what HDR is.

We were discussing it the other day, and something came up that I think is very true.  We think processes first and subject second, rather than trying to work out what is the best way to process an image to show the subject as its best.  It is something we can get bogged down with.  Rather than looking at a subject and asking if it would be better as a HDR, it is easier to just do it, regardless, which is where I used to be.  Now days, I’m more likely to still do the HDR, but then I compare it with just one image that I think is exposed correctly and ask myself which I think is better.  Often the HDR image is deleted.  The subject in the image always has to come first and then what is the best way to process it so the subject looks its best.

I’m coming down with a cold, so my brain is a bit scattered and I hope you can understand this post.  I just wanted to give you my views on HDR and explain it a bit better for people who don’t understand what it is.

Do you do HDR images?  What software do you use?  Do you do it for every image?  If you don’t do HDR then why?  Do you do HDR and then combine it with other images?

These posts are a great way to share knowledge, so please contribute.

I will approve them, as long as they are nice and not nasty in any way.  I am travelling home today, so I won’t be able to respond today, but I will try and get to them when I get home. I will approve them from my phone.

Feel free to respond or reply to other comments.  It would be good to generate some discussion.

The Same Sort of Theme

Since this week we seem to have been looking at Black and White Images, I thought I would go through the images I took up in the Mallee and see if I could find some more that would make good Black and White images.  Though I suspect I did the best ones the other day.  I don’t know, I couldn’t seem to make these ones work.  It could have been because I was tired, but you take a look and see what you think.  I will put them in a gallery for you.

Some of them you have seen before, so if you want to go back and see the originals you can.  They aren’t completely black and white and there is a little colour in all of them, but I do like that and think it adds to them, but I have to admit one thing I am learning is to be careful about which colour.

Short post today.  Getting ready for a cooler weekend, and hopefully a chance to get out and take more photos, or work in the garden, not sure which just yet.  Take care everyone.

It isn’t Always Black and White

sccemetery-7919Yesterday I did some photos in Black and White and added a touch of colour.  It was a fun process to do and I think the images came out well.  I know there are many people in photography that think black and white is the only way to go, there are others who think most images look better in black and white, then there are some of us who think it depends on the image.

I am not going to get into an argument about what is best, it is purely a personal thing.  However, having said that, I know there are many images that could be great black and white images, but due to the processing they aren’t.  Again, I know this can be a very personal thing, so all I can do is talk about what I think.  You can all have your say in the comments section.

Today I had a comment from someone wanting to know about how I did the photos yesterday.  It was an interesting comment, and I remembered that I had done posts on this in the past.  I did a tutorial on doing Black and White photos in GIMP, Black and White in GIMP – My Way and then I did one on Black and White Conversions.  It is a very subjective subject and I thought I might tackle it again, especially since I sccres-hpm5786-7wrote the latter over two years ago.

I think black and white images can be very dramatic, but they can also be boring, and it really depends on your subject matter.  I have always felt that your subject matter should determine which images should be made into monotone or duotone images.  Does it enhance the image more, if the colour is gone does the image miss something?  There are so many questions, but you have to answer those. In the end it is your image and has to be what you want.

However, having said that, there are still ways of taking a photo that would be great in black and white and then making it look horrible.  When I wrote the article on conversions it was because I was seeing so many black and white images on the scbarwon-8016-se1internet that had a lot of potential, but they hadn’t been processed right.

Many cameras now can take black and white images for you, it is not something I have ever done.  I like to take all my photos in colour, and then decide once I get them on the computer if I will make them black and white.  I like to have that choice, but I know many photographers that just shoot in B&W, again it is a personal choice.

Once the image is on the computer there are many ways to make it black and white. You can convert it to grey scale (if you do this, you won’t be able to use colour in the image, unless you save it, then convert it back to RGB), you can completely desaturate your image, or if you have Photoshop you can use the black and white adjustment layer.  I like the last option because then you have the choice to play with the tones of each colour, not sure that is the right way of putting it.

There is something that a lot people do to their images, or don’t do, and that is lookscbarwonheads-hpm8063-1sep1 at the contrast.  The contrast is the different between the darks and lights in your images, or the black and whites and everything in between.

When I started photography, I started with black and white, and developed my own films, and then printed them.  I converted my laundry into a darkroom that could only be used at night.  It worked, and I spent many evenings in there working on my images.  I was given some advice from another photographer that said, “make sure there is a black in your image, and there is a white.  He suggested using a piece of white paper and a piece of black to help make sure I had those.  It is good to also have the greys in between.

LeanneCole-ocean-ant4173You don’t want the image to be just black and white, that would be horrible, but you want a range of tones from black to white.  When I was at art school and drawing, I can remember my lecturers telling me that my drawings had no contrast, I didn’t know what they were talking about, now I do, the drawings had no darks, and they were very grey.  I worked it out eventually and my drawings got a lot better.

Photography is the same, if you don’t have that contrast, the images can look washed out if there are no blacks, or too dark if there are no whites.  It is a good thing to remember.

So how do you like your black and white images?  What is your favourite subject for those images?  Lastly, what do you use to process them?

Here is a little gallery of the images if you want a better look at them.