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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.
There will be times when you won't want to convert all of an image to black and white. Selective black-and-white conversion allows you to leave something in the image that's in color. So, you'll see this. A lot of times people will convert an image into black and white and leave one object edited in color. It can be a very cool effect. I would argue that you need to be careful with it, that it doesn't upstage your image. A lot of times such an effect can be distracting because what people notice is oh, hey, one thing is in color. Here is an example. I'm going to leave her color and knock the background out to black and white.
So here is my original. I've added a Black and White adjustment layer. I can now do any toning in black and white that I like, but this works this fine as is. Black and White is an adjustment layer, just like the Levels adjustment layers that we've been using, which means it always comes in with a layer mask, which means I can simply build a mask to say what should be in black and white and what should be in color. Right now, the mask is empty, so the entire image is getting the black-and-white effect. Remember this Black and White adjustment layer, again is kind of spray paint that we're spraying onto our image, that's turning it into black and white.
And this layer mask is like a stencil that's in front of our image. So wherever I fill up the stencil, or the the mask, with black, none of that magic black-and-white spray paint goes through, and so these areas do not get converted to grayscale. So fortunately, this image is extremely shallow depth of field and so the edges are already a little bit soft. I don't have to be super particular about nailing my mask exactly right. If I want to be, I can, and I can use some of Photoshop's other masking tools.
A detailed discussion of Photoshop's masking tools is way beyond a humble black- and-white course such as this. But you can find other courses on Photoshop's masking capabilities, and any of them can be used with a Black and White layer that we're looking at here, or the Levels adjustment layers that we've been using--all of those masking tools give you ways of constraining your tonal adjustments in your edits. I might just do a little more of touching that out, and so there we go. I've got her in color, the background in black and white. It makes for a nice cooler background, brings more focused her.
These kinds of edits are extremely easy thanks to Black and White adjustment layers, and they are a single reason to be using Black and White adjustment layers rather than the destructive Black and White dialog box.
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