T Nation

BW Photo buffs?


Like almost everybody else, I purchased a digital camera. I have used various options on the camera and the results are getting better and better (outside of auto mode).

My problem: Black and white image processing.

Basically, just using the black and white filter (on cam) or via a program just makes it gray scale and dull. It is far away from the warmth (for a lack of a better word) that you see in Ansel Adams (see picture)/ Calvin Klein ads look.

Anybody here have good links to image processing tutorials to get that result?

(I have seen one page, that talks about zones, levels, and everything. It looks like rocket science. Honest. I suspect some classic 1-2-3 methodology exists, or some specialized software.)

Thanks in advance!

In photoshop, go to the Curves adjustment, and play around. Also, just adjusting brightness/contrast will go a long way to making your photos ‘pop’ more. Also, keep in mind that Ansel Adams/older BW photography wasn’t really the color grey that we see on our computers. The film might actually be slightly copper or blue balanced (or a variety of other tints). So to replicate that, you might want to drop the color information (converting it to greyscale), then switch it back to RGB, and then open up the color balance menu. Try adjusting things just a smidge to the blue (or some other color) side.

Finally, you might want to try sharpening your images. Unfortunately, most digital cameras just don’t capture the same image that a normal camera would, for all sorts of reasons: not using a real camera lens, not being able to take pictures as rapidly as a regular camera, and using photosensitive electronics rather than film. Film has a grain that we are used to seeing, and that tricks our eyes into seeing a certain sharpness in the image. Photosensitive electronics simply don’t create the same image pattern (there’s no discernable space between cells like there is in grains, for example), so you have to compensate for that by sharpening techniques.


NEO: You seem like a picture buff. I quickly browsed on something called Duotones. They way they mention it, you 1) grayscale, 2) duotone, 3)levelize the thingy. If I add you advice on top of that, it could turn out dang good. I`ll keep you informed.

(And, yep, the Ansel Adams guy must have some tons of technique he wont easily mention too either. Wonder if he gives lessons or selldigital` oriented books. Gonna be interesting.)

I also found a better example of what results I want to reach. See current pic.

Any ladies here who want to give me their pictures (or permissions) to retouch them ? ;0)

I love BW Photos I think they are so much clearer.

FITONE: Same thing here.

On top of that, there`s an interesting psychological phenomenon behind it. B&W is more abstract, like icons, so it reaches more to people in a certain way.

The way I am startin to see it, more and more, exposure and lighting is the name of the game for good results.

Still, it always has a charm color can`t get. Bizarrely enough, a grainy look now and then is cool too.

Dan C you should really buy a good SLR camera go w/ either a Canon or Nikon. If you like taking BW photos. I dabble in a little photography every now and then. Digtal cameras are great but they are limited in what they can do.

Certainly for bbing photography B&W can’t be beat. Those old Art Zeller shots are still the standard.

I’ll lend a hand here. And I apologize in advance for length, but do bear with me, I promise it’s worth it.

The industry standard for imaging is Photoshop; my comments apply readily to others (Paint Shop Pro, PS Elements), but for specific directions I’ll reference PS. And I must disclaim: There are about a thousand ways (and counting) to perform any one action in PS. Rarely is there ONE best way.

Don’t bother filtering the camera. Straight B&W filters on digicams throw away data unnecessarily. Film cameras benefit to some degree, but primarily because of the superior grain characteristics of B&W film, not artistic intent.

SO. Capture your images in color. Convert them to black and white. But how?

This is where PS comes in. There are four ways I recall offhand: A) converting directly to Grayscale color mode, throwing away color data, B) Dropping the ‘Saturation’ slider in the Hue/Saturation adjustment box to -100, C) Converting to LAB color mode and keeping only the luminosity channel, and D) Creating an ‘Channel Mixer’ adjustment layer on the original color image.

I’ll expand a bit before I continue.

Unless you’re capturing in RAW (as opposed to TIFF, JPG), your digicam images default to 24-bit RGB color. 8 bits, or 2^8=256 colors, per Red, Green, and Blue channel. Because we see green better, and because camera CCDs (devices that record color information) are generally 1/2 green, 1/4 blue, and 1/4 red*, the green channel tends to hold more information than the red and blue.

*With one exception, digital CCDs don’t see true color. Each CCD element (a 3 MPixel camera would have 3 million) can detect only monochrome, so color filters are placed in front of them in the proportions I mention above. The camera then interpolates (estimates with sophisticated algorithms) 24-bit 3-channel color.

This is why you don’t want to use a B&W filter. Such a filter forces you to use the red, green, and blue channels in predefined proportions which almost certainly WON’T result in an optimal image. The first three methods I mentioned in PS do the same.

But the fourth…

Within PS, you can view and edit channels individually. The channel mixture allows you to choose how much of each channel you’d like to affect the image.

Brief tutorial on channel mixer

That’s the gist of the method. Keep this in mind:

"Just try and ensure that the combined total of the mix is roughly 100%

So, onward to another issue. Warmth!

Many grayscale prints appear warm because they’re not really grayscale. Nephorm mentioned Duotone. Duotone is a method to improve tonal range in a B&W. With few exceptions, printers have only solid black ink. An 8-bit grayscale image has 256 shades of gray. Obviously this presents a problem; how can I reproduce various shades of gray solely with black ink?

One method is dithering, or modifying the size, location, and density of ink drops to give the illusion of gradual tonal changes. All inkjet printers do this by default.

Duotone is another way. Or rather, an additional way. Instead of just black, duotone throws in a lighter second color (or a third or fourth, as in Tritone and Quadtone respectively) to add depth to shadows and smooth highlight transitions. I say color, but if the printer had grey ink, gray could just as easily be (and often is) the second hue. If you duotone with yellow and black, every color lighter than solid black would be yellow-gray. And light yellow-gray. And dark yellow-gray.

In other words, it’s a method to improve printing accuracy. Not necessarily an artistic instrument. But it just so happens that a touch of yellow suggests warmth, which is why you’ll rarely see green or blue as a second color.

Actually, ‘colorizing’ the image within the Hue/Saturation edit box has a nearly identical effect onscreen; Duotone merely ensures that your additional hue matches an easily-reproduced ink color.

And the last topic: Levels!

And curves, an advanced version of Levels. Even given the avalanche of text I’ve already written, an adequate explanation of the two is beyond the scope of this post. Thus I refer you here:

Apple’s excellent free video tutorial on Levels/Curves

BUT, I will give a quick overview of the most common use for them.

Say you have an image in which the subject is too dark. You took a picture of someone facing you, back to the sun without a fill flash, and your camera rendered them as a black outline with barely visible features. Like this.

Now, every imaging program has a Brightness/Contrast box. The problem with Brightness is that it changes every pixel uniformly. Your darkest shadow (RGB: 0) becomes light gray, your lightest colors (RGB 200+) become clipped when they reach RGB 255, and your friend is no more visible than before. So, in short, Brightness sucks.

Levels and curves allow you to edit the luminosity of any given RGB (or each channel individually) range independent of the others. So if your friend takes up RGB:20 to RGB:40, you could amplify that range and leave your shadows at 0 and your highlights at 255, and thus preserve the look of the picture.

That’s as much as I’ll burden you with today. Best of luck, and let me know if I’ve been obscure at any point.

DI

Dan:

That is Alex, is it not?

To hell with grayscale. I like this one:

DI

nephorm:

not using a real camera lens

How’s that now? Lenses are certainly interchangeable between SLR bodies of the same manufacturer, digital or not. Prosumer integrated lenses differ only in compensation for the smaller physical size of the CCD.

not being able to take pictures as rapidly as a regular camera

Highly camera-dependent. Digital SLRs match their film counterparts shot for shot. Autofocusing mechanisms on consumer 35mm cams can take just as long as digital equivalents.

and using photosensitive electronics rather than film. Film has a grain that we are used to seeing, and that tricks our eyes into seeing a certain sharpness in the image. Photosensitive electronics simply don’t create the same image pattern (there’s no discernible space between cells like there is in grains, for example), so you have to compensate for that by sharpening techniques

And this is outright wrong. It’s precisely for lack of grain that digital images are superior to film. And capturing contrast, the fundamental action of any sharpening algorithm, is a point at which digicams excel. Any blurring you may experience is merely a result of antialiasing, and mapping the image to a pixel grid. Scanned film differs not at all. Sharpening is an integral step in the pre-press of any image; not just digital!

Ultimately, you’re right about this:

most digital cameras just don’t capture the same image that a normal camera would … but that’s a positive.

An example.

DI

Knight:
How’s that now? Lenses are certainly interchangeable between SLR bodies of the same manufacturer, digital or not.

True. I was making a general statement, considering most people do not buy digital SLRs. Hence the use of the word ‘most.’ The last time I checked (which admittedly was a while ago), the majority of digital cameras on the market, even in midrange, are not SLRs.

Digital SLRs match their film counterparts shot for shot. Autofocusing mechanisms on consumer 35mm cams can take just as long as digital equivalents.
That’s not exactly true (as far as I know), except for some very high end models. Digital cameras have two kinds of memory: the very fast kind that stores the image when it’s first taken, and then the slower, more permanent storage (such as a smartcard or whatever). As you take pictures, you fill up that first, fast kind of memory… and then you must wait for the camera to copy your images over to the slower, more permanent storage. If you were a portrait artist, you’d realize how unacceptable this is… most portrait artists (or, I should say, headshot/model photographers), take shots almost continuously so that nothing is lost. Waiting for the camera, even if it’s after 10 shots, is just unacceptable for many photographers. Again, the last time I checked on the speed of cameras was a while ago… so perhaps the industry has leapt forward since then.

And this is outright wrong. It’s precisely for lack of grain that digital images are superior to film. And capturing contrast, the fundamental action of any sharpening algorithm, is a point at which digicams excel. Any blurring you may experience is merely a result of antialiasing, and mapping the image to a pixel grid. Scanned film differs not at all. Sharpening is an integral step in the pre-press of any image; not just digital!

I was referring to the psychological association we have with sharp grain. But, of course, I’m sure you also realize that there is a wide variety of film grains… some of which are exceptionally fine (and subject to very, very long exposure times). While technically ‘superior’ to have the cells lined up in raster format (I never argued against this), most viewers are accustomed to seeing, at least subconsciously, film grain. I am also very familiar with antialiasing, and my experience with digital cameras has been that at high resolution, they take a blurry photo more often than a regular camera. Of course, I don’t use a tripod… I have to be able to move around to take my photos.

knightrt
can we get a frontal, please.lol
danC nice pic of the bridge.

Bump for Dan.

DI

KNIGHTRT: First of all, wow! Thanks! Didn`t expect that much info! I digested it all already!

Found a couple of cool demo plugins to sharpen/enhance my pics too. Some are damn strong. (Ah! Newbie stuff, I know…! ;0)

Alex…er? Dunno! I got the picture at the bottom of the photo.net website. Seems to link to philip.greenspun.com/dogs/george

The links are excellent too. Almost had me rushing to buy a Canon SLR…but Ill guess Ill start at the beginning and go for pro stuff in due time… ;0)

For starters, I am still having troubles doing layering/blending as described in this page (specially the one with the lady):

http://www.carlvolk.com/photoshop23.htm

Feel free to PM if you think things can be too complicated/long for this thread. I love this stuff!

George, that’s right. Greenspun’s written about a number of his samoyeds over the years, I can’t quite differentiate between them.

I’ll admit that essay wasn’t entirely an act of altruism. I’ve been submersed in photography and digital editing for quite some time, and I was just itching for an excuse to write about it.

More to follow by PM.

DI


Found it guys!

A nice little action pack at this page:

http://www.marcjutras.com/epseudolith.html

(Demo picture joined, original will follow)

Another way to do it:

http://www.pauck.de/marco/photo/lith/digital_lith/digital_lith.html

:0)


For those who want to see the difference. Adriana Karembeu, more known as the I cant cook…who cares?` bra babe.