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- Using adjustment layers in a non-destructive image-editing workflow
- Correcting color with curves
- Adjusting brightness and contrast with levels
- Dodging and burning photographs
- Reading histograms accurately
- Converting color images to grayscale with a Black & White adjustment layer
- Customizing auto-corrections for more accurate quick adjustments
Skill Level Intermediate
There is something really special about a black and white photograph; maybe that's because we see so many photographs in color. If your goal is a black and white image, I suggest that when you are shooting with a digital camera or when you are scanning to capture the image, that you capture in RGB color mode rather than in gray scale mode and that's because a gray scale mode image has only one channel on tonal values as compared to a RGB color image which has three channels of tonal information. To show you that, I have an RGB color image open here and I'm going to go to my Channels panel, which is in the Layers panel group. If your Channels panel isn't open, you can open it from the Window menu at the top of the screen.
I'm also going to collapse the Adjustments panel for a moment by Double-clicking its tab so that there is more room to see the Channels panel. The Channels panel shows that there are four channels in this image. Three that have gray scale thumbnails and one that's in color. The color image is a composite of the three gray scale channels. I'm going to click on the Red Channel to show you what's on that channel and as you can see, it really looks like a black and white image. The Red Channel contains these particular brightness values for the various parts of the scene.
So notice, for example, that the roof on this building is kind of a middle gray and the building is bright on the Red Channel. But if I click on the Green Channel, the brightness values are different. In this version of the image, there is a dark roof on the building and if I go to the Blue Channel, the brightness values change once again. Here I have got kind of a middle gray in the building as opposed to the light value that I had with the Green and Red channels and it's a combination of these three gray scale images that make up the composite color channel in an RGB color image and it's a good thing to have all of this tonal information in your image because then you just have so many more tones to represent the scene and to work with if you manipulate or adjust the image.
I am going to go back to the Layers panel because if you do capture an image in color and you want it to be black and white, you are going to have to convert it from color to black and white and that's something that you can do in Photoshop. You may have heard that there are many methods of converting from color to black and white in Photoshop and some are better than others. There is one method that's better than all the rest and that is a Black & White adjustment layer. I think it's the most intuitive and it also gives you the tools to control the process to get the result that you have in your mind's eye. So let's take a look at a Black & white adjustments layer. The Black & White adjustment can be applied as a direct adjustment from the Image, Adjustments menu but as I have said many times in this course, when you can apply an adjustment as an adjustment layer, I suggest you do so.
So I'm going out of this menu and back to the Adjustments panel where I'll Double-click the Adjustments tab. I'm going to click on this icon, the Black & White icon in the Adjustments panel to add a Black & White adjustment layer down here in the Layers panel. And that is also to change the Adjustments panel to these controls for the Black & White adjustment and it's applied a default Black & White conversion to the image. Sometimes this default conversion is pretty good. In this case, it's not too bad although, I don't see very many bright whites in the image. But the real beauty of the Black & White adjustment layer is that you don't have to accept the default conversion. You can use the tools in the Adjustments panel to customize that conversion.
Notice that there are six sliders here. They represent the primary RGB colors, Red, Green, and Blue, as well as the CMYK colors, Yellow, Cyans, and Magentas. If you've listened to the earlier movie about the Color Wheel, and the various movies about correcting color, you may remember that some of these colors are paired of with other colors. But the point is here that you don't have to know that. You don't need to know that there is a color wheel or that Red is the opposite of Cyan; all you have to do is use the sliders intuitively.
Notice that each one of the sliders is dark on the left and light on the right and that's telling you that if you take a slider and you move it to the right, you'll be lightening the areas of the black and white conversion that were Red in the color image. So, for example, if I drag the Red slider over to the right, keep your eye on the roofs, and you'll see that they are getting lighter and if I drag that Red slider to the left, the roofs get darker. So that's pretty easy. All you have to do is remember what colors there were in the colored version of the image and if you want to, you can come down to the bottom of the Adjustments panel and click the Eye icon there to see the image in color and then click again to see it in black and white.
So that's one way to work in the Black & White Adjustments panel. But there is an even easier and more intuitive way and that is to enable the On-image feature. This is the same kind of On- image control that you can use in a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and in a Curves adjustment layer in Photoshop CS4. This is the third adjustment layer that offers an On-image control. To enable the On-image feature, I'll go up to this icon here in the Adjustments panel and click this icon that looks like a hand with a double pointed arrow and now I don't even have to use these sliders. All I have to do is go into the image and think about which areas I want to be dark and which I want to be light. So I could really change the look of this image from this default conversion by doing something like, clicking in the water, and dragging to the left and if I drag to the left, I'm darkening the parts of the image that are Cyan and you can see that if you look at the Cyan slider which has just moved with me, let's say that I think this building should be lighter.
I don't care whether the building is yellow or green or purple, all I have to do is click on it and drag to the right and the building will get lighter and you'll notice that that Yellow slider is moving with me in the Adjustments panel. I'll put that around there and maybe I'll lighten this building which happens to be green but it doesn't matter to me, I just have to click-and-drag and then I think I'd like the viewers attention to focus on this man. I've no idea what color shirt he is wearing but I'm going to click on his shirt and drag to the right and his shirt will get lighter.
So my vision of how this image should look in black and white is much different than the default. To remind you I'm going to go to the bottom of the Adjustments panel and click the Previous state icon right here. This was the initial conversion and this is how it looks now. There are a couple of other features to remind you of in the Black & White Adjustments panel. One is that there are presets here and there are some interesting creative ones for you to try like Infrared, High Contrast Red Filter and some others. And even if you don't like these results, you can use them as a starting point and then customize as I have shown you how to do here.
And if you ever want to get back to the original default conversion, you can just go to this menu and choose Default. There is also an Auto button that you can try which gives you Photoshop's best guess of how the image should be converted and there is a Tint feature here which I'm going to be addressing in the separate movie as I show you how to take an image and turn it into a monochrome. So when I want to convert a color image to a black and white image, the Black & White Adjustments panel is the first place that I go but it's not the only way that you can do a color to black and white conversion in Photoshop and if you stay tuned for the next movie, I'll show you another way using the Channel Mixer adjustment layer.