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Sometimes, a subject just begs for a black and white interpretation. That tends to be especially the case when a subject is something that harkens back to an older time. In this case, I have an image of an old car set against the backdrop of a classic hotel. And so, a black and white interpretation seems a natural fit. In fact, to me, this image conveys the mood of an old classic movie. So I'll keep that vision in mind as I'm working. To get started, I'll add a Black and White Adjustment Layer, which of course, is the first step in making a black and white image in most cases. And I'll start working with the various sliders here to see what it might do to the image. I want to pay attention to which areas are affected by each of my sliders as I adjust them.
I could also use the On-Image adjustment. But in this case, I think I'll just explore around with the different sliders and see what it does to the image. Now, I definitely like the brightening effect of the white walls, but I need to be careful that the chrome doesn't get too hot. So I don't think that I can get the white walls as bright as I like. So we'll come back and use a different technique for that. And finally, taking a look at the magentas, not much influence there. And so, this seems to be a pretty good starting point for my basic conversion. I would like a bit more contrast though, so I'm going to add a Curves Adjustment Layer, and then I'll apply a bit of an S-curve here.
Darkening up the dark areas and brightening up the brights, but I need to be careful about the specific adjustment I apply. Again, I don't want to produce too bright an area in the chrome, and I don't want to darken the overall shadows too much. So I think I'm going to add an extra anchor point to keep the shadow areas from getting too dark and I might actually brighten up some of the other shadow areas. That's looking a little bit better. We're getting something that looks a little bit more contrasty. I'll turn off the eye for the Curves Adjustment later so we can see the before, and then, click again to see the after.
As you can see, it's a relatively subtle change, just increasing contrast a little bit. Now, I would like to brighten up the white wall just a little bit, and I think I might darken this portion of the fender, so I'm going to add a Dodge and Burn layer. I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while clicking to create a new layer button. I'll call this layer Dodge and Burns since that's what I'm using this layer for and I'll change the blend mode for the layer to overlay. I'll then check the box to fill this layer with the overlay neutral color of 50% gray. I'll click OK, and then press the letter B to access my Brush tool, and the letter D for my default colors, and the letter X to swap those colors, so that white is my foreground color.
I'll work with a Soft Edge Brush, but I'll set my Opacity down to probably about 10 or 15%. I'll use 15% in this case. I'll use the left and right square bracket keys to reduce or enlarge the brush as needed, and then in this case, I'll paint across the white wall. Actually I think maybe we can go a little brighter with that, so I'll take another swipe with my brush tool here, painting with white to lighten it up a little bit. And then I'll press X to switch the foreground and background colors, so that black is my foreground color and I'll paint with black across the top of the fender here to darken that up just a little bit.
And maybe I might darken up underneath the car here just a hair. But otherwise, I think we're in pretty good shape.there. I think I'd like to add a vignette effect for this image, so I'll hold the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Macintosh while clicking to add a new layer. We'll call this one Vignette, change the blend mode to Multiply,and click to turn on the check box to fill with the multiplying neutral color. I'll then choose Filter > Lens Correction, and I'm going to go to the custom tap and then apply a darkening vignette.
Now I only want this vignette to appear right in the corners of the image just at the very, very edges, and so, I'll actually increase the midpoint value a little bit so that the midpoint spreads out and only the extreme edges of the image are affected. I'll then click OK, and I can reduce the Opacity to tone down the effect just a little bit. Turning this layer on and off, you can see that I've actually had a pretty strong effect on the image helping to pull you down into the center. Now I like the direction I've taken this image but I think actually what would give it a little bit more of that classic feel would be a sepia tone effect.
So I'll scroll down on my layers panel to my Black and White Adjustment Layer and click on it, so that I can see the controls for the Black and White Layer on the Adjustments panel. I'll click to turn on the tint check box, and then I'll click on the color swatch to bring up the color picker. Now, I want something that's not very saturated and maybe just a little bit warm. I don't want it to be too yellow or too orange, something like that, but a little less saturated. Right about in there I think. It's not going to take too much color to give just a little hint of color to the image and give it a nice sort of Dusty old appearance.
That's looking pretty good, so I'll click OK. And as you can see, by thinking about how the subject would be best represented, you can often produce a black and white interpretation that is more impactful than might otherwise be possible with a color image.
- Understanding channels
- Using the Lab color mode
- Adding a black-and-white adjustment layer
- Adding a color tint
- Applying a Curves adjustment
- Using the Gradient Map adjustment
- Adding a vignette or film grain
- Dodging and burning
- Selective black-and-white