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Black-and-white portraits

From: Photoshop Black-and-White Workshop

Video: Black-and-white portraits

With a portrait, the focus tends to be, of course, on the person that is the subject of the photo. Quite often, removing the color element can help emphasize the person in the image. In this lesson, we'll explore some of the ways you might transform a color portrait into a black and white image. Perhaps, even only with the partial black and white element. We'll start off by converting this image to black and white. I'll click to Add a New Adjustment Layer and choose Black and White from the pop-up. And then, I'll adjust my controls here. In this case, I think I might darken down the reds just a little bit and perhaps brighten up the yellows.

Black-and-white portraits

With a portrait, the focus tends to be, of course, on the person that is the subject of the photo. Quite often, removing the color element can help emphasize the person in the image. In this lesson, we'll explore some of the ways you might transform a color portrait into a black and white image. Perhaps, even only with the partial black and white element. We'll start off by converting this image to black and white. I'll click to Add a New Adjustment Layer and choose Black and White from the pop-up. And then, I'll adjust my controls here. In this case, I think I might darken down the reds just a little bit and perhaps brighten up the yellows.

This will help give us a little bit more contrast in those skin tones. Now, I am thinking at this point that maybe it might actually be interesting if only the person went black and white and the back were in color. So, I'm going to click on the Layer Mask for my black and white adjustment. And then, I'll choose Image, Adjustments, Invert from the menu. This will invert the Layer Mask, not the image. So, the Layer Mask is now filled with black. That means it's blocking the effect of the adjustment. So now, the black and white conversion is not visible.

However, if I choose the Brush tool from the toolbox, and then press the letter D to set my default colors, so that white is the foreground color. I can paint using a soft brush, a hardness of 0% and the opacity at 100%. This will allow me to paint into the image where I want the effect to be visible. In this case, my black and white conversion. So, I'll paint into the person here, so that I can only see black and white where the person is and the rest of the image appears in color. Now, obviously I'm just going to do a quick job here, so that we don't waste a lot of time trying to paint into the image.

And I'm actually going to paint around the perimeter of the person here first, and then use a larger brush to sort of fill in the details. As you can see, painting in white is revealing the effect of this Adjustment Layer, so that in this case the person is black and white and the background is still in color. And to me, that seems to emphasize the person all the more. It sort of draws attention to the person because it looks unique. It's what jumps out at us as being something special. There, that looks pretty good, I think I've gotten just about the entire area here painted properly.

So, we have black and white for the person and color for the background. Now, I think we could also use a little bit more contrast. If we experiment around with some of the sliders here, we might find some better interpretations of the image. For example, the yellows are helping to brighten up certain areas and the reds, you know, there's a lot of reds in the skin tones here, so I don't want to go too bright or things will start to look a little bit artificial. I think that's a pretty good starting point, but I'd like a bit more contrast. So, I'm going to add a Curves Adjustment Layer, and then we'll brighten up the highlights and darken up the shadows a little bit to give ourselves a bit more contrast.

I'd also like to fix a few blemishes here. So, I'm going to click on my Background Image Layer. And then, I'll create a new layer. Double-clicking the name of the layer, I'll give it a different name. Instead of layer 1, which isn't exactly meaningful, I'll call this clean up. I'll then choose my Spot Healing Brush and I'll Zoom In a little bit on the image. Now, to use the Spot Healing Brush on a separate layer, I need to make sure that I have my Sample All Layers check box turned on. However, in order to ensure that everything will match up, I need to turn off my other layers. So, in this case, I'll have only my Background Image Layer and my Cleanup Layer as active.

I can then use the Content Aware feature of the Spot Healing Brush to simply paint over areas that I would like to remove. And they'll be cleaned up automatically. So, I can get rid of a few blemishes here and there. And there's a couple of hairs here, some whiskers that are a little bit distracting, so I'll get rid of those. And I can continue cleaning up anything I'd like. When I'm happy, I'll Zoom back out here. And of course, I'll turn on my Adjustment Layer, so that we're back to the image as we last left it. Now, I like that color effect in the background, but it's a little bit too cool.

So, I think I'm going to add a Color Balance Adjustment Layer, so that I can shift the color just a little bit. I'll take the Yellow Blue slider a little bit toward yellow. And we'll take cyan red over toward the red and ooh, that's looking much, much nicer. It is a little bit too vibrance though. So, I'm going to reduce the vibrance, the saturation of the image using the Vibrance Adjustment Layer. In this case, a simple reduction of vibrance will help to tone those colors down just a little bit. Now, keep in mind, by changing the color in the image, you are impacting the black and white conversion.

So, you might want to revisit your black and white adjustment after applying any color changes. In this case, I think the overall conversion is fine, I just need a little bit darker dark areas in the image, so I'll go back to curves and make a refinement there. Well, I think that's looking a lot more interesting. I'll scroll down to the bottom of the Layers panel and hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh and click the Eye icon, so that only the original background color image is visible. I can then, continue to hold the alter option key.

And click again to reveal all layers. As you can see, we've got an image with a little bit more impact here. By exercising some flexibility and control over your portraits, you can create a unique result, that may resonate better with your intended audience.

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Photoshop Black-and-White Workshop

27 video lessons · 1038 viewers

Tim Grey
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