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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.
At long last we are ready to convert a color image to black and white. We've gone through the theory. We've gone through the shooting. I've got a color image open up here, and I'm ready to do my conversion. Now, there are many ways to convert a color image to black and white. There are lots of different pieces of software you can use. Most image editors have a way of converting color to black and white, and within any image editor there might be multiple methods of doing the conversion. I'm here in Photoshop CS5. In Photoshop, I can list for you 16 different ways to convert a color image to black and white, and if you look in magazine articles and books and web pages, you'll find lots of people listing lots of different methods, and it used to be that knowing the three or four different conversion methods was not a bad idea, because you got very different results from each.
But starting with Photoshop CS3, Adobe introduced a new black-and-white conversion feature that is almost the end- all be-all black-and-white conversion tool. To my mind, you don't need to clutter your brain with other techniques anymore. Just learn this one. It does everything you need and does it with some really nice flair that can be very useful. So that's what we're going to be using mostly in this course. I may at one point or another take a look at one or two other methods, but probably not, and I will give you some brief ideas of how to do grayscale conversions in some other applications.
But if you're in Photoshop CS3 or later, then this is what you're going to be using. Image > Adjustments > Black & White takes me to Photoshop's black-and- white conversion tool. When that happens, the first thing I see is a grayscale version of my image. This is a default grayscale recipe. Now the problem with default grayscale recipes very often is that they're just not right for your image. They're not what you had in mind and so you want the ability to alter that recipe to get a more custom grayscale conversion. And that's what's really nice about this feature is it gives me tremendous control.
This is why this feature scores over so many other grayscale conversion methods, and it's why we are, for the most part, ignoring all those other grayscale conversion methods. So this Black and White dialog box has these color sliders, and I've got Reds, Yellows, Greens, Cyans, Blues, and Magentas, and these correspond to colors in the image. I'm going an unchecked my Preview box here, so that we can see the original color image, and let's just take note of a couple of things. I've got blue up here in the sky. I've got blue down here on this video rental store. I'm going to turn Preview back on so that I can see my grayscale conversion.
I'm going to take the Blues slider and drag it to the left. When I do that, anything in the image that is blue gets darker, so my sky is gotten darker and the video store has gotten darker. If I slide to the right, anything in the image that is blue gets lighter, so now I'm lightening the sky and with it goes to the video store. It is not understanding that I'm trying to lighten a particular thing, it's just lightening anything in the image that's blue. So I'm going put that back to where it was. Let's look at the color image again. I've got some reds back here and some greens.
So if I drag the Reds slider, let's just think for a minute about what's going to happen. This tree back here and this truck should get lighter as I drag the Reds to the right, and sure enough, they are. And the sign has gotten lighter, and I've gotten a little bit lightening in a couple of other places, because there's reds up here in the brick--there's even just a light red stain here. There are some red down here. So even these slight red tones are getting altered as I move the Reds slider. So what's really nice about this is I can say, well, I know that I want the sky darker so that it's more contrasty against the foreground here.
For the moment, I'm not going to worry about the fact that this is darkening, but actually now that it is, it kind of like it. It's set off against this white building. And to create further contrast, maybe I should lighten the green trees. So I'm going to drag the Greens slider up to lighten them. Well, maybe I don't like that so much. I like that this bits lighter than this bit, but maybe they should be darkened so that they really stand out against the sky. That's looking pretty good. Now, let's crank the red so that that tree stands out. There we go. Now we're getting somewhere. Obviously, these other tones are getting messed up, maybe in ways that I like, maybe in ways I don't.
We'll look later at how to control those. At the moment, I just want to you to understand what this box is doing. I'm going to put this back to kind of their default positions here and look at something else. Let's say that I want to fiddle with this truck, but I'm not really sure what color it is. If I just mouse over here into my image, my cursor turns into an eyedropper. Now if I left-click, I get this weird little cursor. It's a finger pointer with some arrows on it. If I drag it to the left, Photoshop automatically identifies--look over there on the right in the Black and White dialog box, the Reds slider is moving-- it has automatically identified the color that I clicked on and is adjusting the appropriate slider.
I'm going to undo that now with Command+Z. To do the edit that I did a minute ago, which I did manually using these sliders, I can also just come up here and use the eyedropper. I can say I want darken the sky. I don't want to go that far. I want to darken these trees, and I want to lighten this tree by dragging to the right. So drag to left to darken, drag to the right to lighten, just like you would on the sliders. So this is nice. I don't even have to deal with the sliders if I don't want to. This is what I'm talking about, about having great control over your grayscale conversion.
It's really like being in a darkroom, if you ever did that, and it's like I am selectively dodging and burning. This Presets menu contains some predefined kind of recipe alterations here that are designed to simulate how you used to shoot black-and-white film. It used to be you would shoot black-and- white film through colored filters to do a type of toning that we're doing here. So if you're used to thinking that way, this can be very nice. If I choose the Red filter, my sky gets darker, which is traditionally how you made darker skies. Here's an Infrared simulator, which kind of works.
It's thrown my green trees into white. This is going to cut out a lot of light and generally lighten my whole image. This is going to give me an extra contrast kick, in addition to a Red filter. These are often nice places to start. I typically just start with the default settings and begin toning on my own. Those are the basics of the Black and White dialog box. We're going to be coming back to this throughout the course and looking at it in more detail as we go on. For now though, fiddle around with it and try to get comfortable with how the sliders correspond to colors in your image.
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