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In Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography, Ben Long outlines a full, shooting-to-output workflow geared specifically toward the needs of landscape photographers, with a special emphasis on composition, exposure enhancement, and retouching. This course also covers converting to black and white, using high-dynamic range (HDR) imaging techniques to capture an image that’s closer to what your eye sees, and preparing images for large-format printing. Learn to bring back the impact of the original scene with some simple post-processing in Photoshop. Exercise files are included with the course.
Your first step in making a black-and- white image is to convert your color image into black-and-white. Now here's the weird thing about black-and-white. There is no objective shade of gray for any particular color. This shade of blue, for example, could be represented as a very light gray, or a very dark gray. That confuses some people at first. They think oh no, no. That blue must be a particular blue. But as you'll see, we can render this sky very light or very dark, or any shade in between. Photoshop has dozens of ways of converting to black-and-white.
Some of them are intentional black-and- white conversion features; others are hacks. There are lots and lots of ways to convert an image to black-and-white. The easiest most straightforward way is to go up to the mode menu and choose Grayscale. I don't recommend that. It's going to give you a decent black- and-white image, but it's just kind of a boilerplate stock recipe black-and-white, which doesn't offer you any control or open up the power of what black- and-white can do for an image. Instead, I would recommend, both because it offers more power and because it's nondestructive, adding a Black & White adjustment layer.
So I am adding this adjustment layer, just like I would any other adjustment layer. And the first thing that's going to happens is it's going to convert my image to black-and-white. And here is this Adjustment layer in here. As with any Adjustment layer, I can turn it off. There is my color image by back behind it, because this is just a black-and-white conversion affect that's getting put on my image. I can mask it, if I want. If you want to create that now somewhat tried effect of the black-and-white image with one colored thing in it, this is a way to do it. You can just paint out one area to restore it to color.
The most important thing about this filter though is the control it gives you for specifying what shade of gray a particular color tone it should be. You see up here I've got all these color sliders: reds, yellows, greens, cyans. These refer to colors in my original image. So in my original image, I've got blues up here. I've got reds and yellows down here. How I drag these sliders determines what shade of gray those colors will be. So if I drag Blues to the left, blues in my image will become darker. I drag it to the right, and they become lighter.
And what's cooler is, just as we've done with the couple of other tools, I've got this target adjustment tool thing up here. Click on the finger, and now I can click in a color in my image. It can be difficult to tell what is the color that I want. I'm going to turn that off. And now I see that I want to click in this area to get the sky. Click and drag, and now Photoshop is automatically sampling the color at that point and identifying the appropriate target color range. It's saying oh he wants blues, and so now I can drag to darken those blues.
So this is what I mean by there is no correct shade of gray for any particular color. The sky looks just fine, dark rather than light. And you may think of, when you look at the color image, you may think well this is a very light sky. It needs to be represented by a light shade of gray, not necessarily. As you'll recall, my original intent with this image was to play up the symmetry in between these lines here and the similar lines radiating outwards in the clouds. So I'd like to have a lot of contrast here. I would like the sky to be darker, so that the clouds would be set off more.
I would also like this to be lighter, so that it's not so much bright up here and dark below, but something with a more equal exposure. So I am going to click on here to sample this shade of dirt. And I am going to brighten up these tones. So as can see, that's the Yellows, as you would kind of expect. So in this way, I can work through my image and get the base gray tones exactly where I want them to be. From here, as we'll do in the following lessons, we can further refine this edit with normal image editing adjustments. But first off, we just want to get our black-and-white tones in place.
And the Black & White Adjustment layer is a great way to do it. Let's take a look at another image. Here is the flowers image we were working with earlier. This has a lot more color in it, and again, a heavy sky. There are a lot of things we could do with this Black & White-wise. I am going to add a Black & White adjustment layer. Now look, right off the bat, there is really no distinction between the yellow flowers and the green leaves and stems and things underneath them. When you first add a Black & White adjustment layer, Photoshop gives you its default recipe for Black & White.
This is a good basic mix of tones that gives you, for the most part, a decent black-and-white image. There are other pre-built recipes up here. A lot of these will make sense to you if you ever shot black-and-white film with colored filters over your lens. Here is the equivalent of black-and-white with a Blue Filter there's a Green Filter. And that's looking much closer to the kind of thing we'd like to have, and so on, and so forth. I can get a kind of fake infrared look. We can get a lighter image. But let's put it back on default and work on this image on our own.
Again, now I've got yellow in here and green down below. Now the problem is yellow and green are very, very close to each other on the color wheel, but I think we can still pretty well isolate the yellow there to brighten that up. And now, let's see if we can darken the green. Let's find an example of a green tone. Here is a one right down here. So I am going to take these Greens and darken them. Unfortunately, in the process of doing that I am - look I didn't get the Greens. I got the Yellows.
So I am going to drag the Yellows back up here and instead of trying to sample a specific color, I am just going to in and darken the Greens. And that's working pretty well. So now I've really set the flowers off from all the green behind them. Let's see what other colors we have to work with here. There's lot of greens back here. So I can just work through my image here and try to find the tones that I think work. I like a darker more menacing sky back there to offset these white things. Overall, the image now has still some contrast issues.
But again, I will fix those using normal toning controls. This is just to get my initial Black & White settings. I want to return for just a minute, to the Sky and Clouds example. Earlier, we talked about how to know when you've pushed an edit too far, and it's very easy to do with the Black & White filter, particularly in skies. I am going to grab the Blues slider. As you'll recall, we were darkening the Blues slider to get this nice, darker sky. Look what happens if I go all the way over here. See this splotchy thing that's turned up here? And there is another one over here.
I can zoom in on those. You can see my gradients in here are really falling apart. They are posterizing really bad into just a series of banded simple tones. That will show up in print. So this is going way too far on my Blues adjustment. I am going to back it off to about here. Now here's part of the problem with this image. It's an 8-bit image. If I had brought this out of my Raw Converter as a 16-bit image, I would have more latitude for this kind of adjustment.
So we can still do a lot of contrast adjustment and equalization to these two images. In the next lessons, where we are going to look at applying the toning controls you've already learned to black-and-white images.
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