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In this Foundations of Photography, Ben Long shows photographers how to develop a black and white vocabulary and explains the considerations to take into account when shooting for this medium. The course follows Ben as he goes on location and explains what makes good black and white subject matter and how to visualize the scene in terms of tonal values and contrast rather than color. Along the way, he demonstrates some exposure strategies for getting the best images. Back at the computer, Ben demonstrates techniques for converting the resulting photos into black and white using Photoshop and other imaging tools, and offers tips on printing and output.
Earlier, I spent some time haranguing you about shooting in RAW instead of JPEG because RAW has a number of advantages over JPEG, as we discussed: highlight recovery, white balance adjustment--which we don't really need as black-and-white shooters--the ability to preserve 16 bits' worth of data instead of merely 8 bits, like you get in JPEG. It's also possible to do your black-and- white conversion in RAW, and we're going to look at that right now. I've got this RAW file opened. This is an exercise file that you can download. And you can see I've got some blues, some reds, some greens, a bunch of gray. This is the basic controls for adjusting tone and whatnot.
But if I go over to here, HSL/ Grayscale, this gives me Hue, Saturation and Luminous controls and I've got this check box here that says Convert to Grayscale. If I do that, again I get a default black-and-white conversion recipe. And basically, this works just the same way that the Black and White dialog in Photoshop does. I've got all these different color sliders. In fact, I have more color sliders, and as I adjust them, those colors in my image will change. So let's go again back to the color image. I've got a blue sky and green grass here.
So I am going to drag the Blues to be darker and sure enough, that darkens up the sky. I am going to drag the Greens to be lighter and sure enough, that lightens the grass. Maybe I'll try darkening the grass. So this is working just like the Black & White control in Photoshop. You may be thinking, "Yeah, but in Photoshop, I've got that ability to just mouse over my image and click on things and drag left to right, and I really like that." Well, you get that in RAW also, if you go up here and choose the Targeted Adjustment tool. Now for this to work, you have to already be in HSL/Grayscale tab, because Targeted Adjustment does different things depending on which one of these tabs you have selected.
So I've got Targeted Adjustment with HSL/Grayscale selected. I can now click on a color. I am going to click on one of the red tiles up here on the roof, and now I can drag left and right, and if you look over there under the Grayscale Mix stuff-- all of the stuff over here--you can see that my Reds and Oranges are changing. So when should I do adjustments here in Camera RAW, and when should I do them in Photoshop? Well, to a degree it's six of one, half dozen of another in terms of what your final output is going to be. Both of them provide very good control. Both of them do an excellent job of skewing the tones around.
I've got a little more granularity here because I've got more sliders in addition to Reds. I've got Reds and Oranges, and as you saw, it was automatically adjusting both of those simultaneously. Similarly, I've got Blues and Aquas, Purples and Magentas, Greens and Yellows. If you think about these colors, you will probably recognize that each pair of sliders sits right next to each other on the color wheel. Reds turn into orange; yellows turn into green; aquas into blue; purples into magentas. They are all very closely related. On the one hand, it's nice having that extra granularity. On the other hand, it can maybe sometimes get a little confusing because it will adjust maybe only the Purple range and not the Magentas and you wanted both.
The Black & White tool in Photoshop, because it has fewer sliders, there is a better chance it's going to grab the entire range of colors that you want. Nevertheless, you can pretty much make the same edits in both. However, there is one very important difference, which is, once I have made these adjustments in here, when I open my image, now I've got a black-and-white image. I don't have the ability to go back and alter those parameters, unless I do something called opening that RAW file as a Smart Object that gives me discrete access back to the RAW parameters.
I am not going to go into Smart Objects in this course. I am going to recommend that for the time being you just keep using the Black & White adjustment layer. Then you've got your adjustments right there. You've got access to them at any time without having to go back to Camera RAW as a Smart Object or that kind of thing. So for now, I would say stick with the Black & White adjustment layer. If you really like the idea of making your adjustments in RAW, and one of the advantages in making adjustments in RAW is your RAW edits are then stored in the RAW conversion data that's socked away in that XMP sidecar file that goes with your RAW file, your black-and-white edits are stored in there which is nice, but for the most part I think you are going to have an easier time just keeping all of your black- and-white conversions here in Photoshop.
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