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Thread: B&W Study: Variations on a Scene

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    Snarkbyte's Avatar
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    B&W Study: Variations on a Scene

    I decided to convert and process the same image using 3 different tools: Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS5, and Silver Efex Pro2. I wasn't trying to get the same results, just experimenting with B&W conversion in different packages, and different interpretations of the same scene using the tools available in each. Final sharpening and conversion to JPEG was done in LR for all photos, but other than that all processing was done exclusively in in the aforementioned products. C&C is greatly appreciated...
    I've included the original image SOOC for reference. I'm trying to learn about B&W, so don't be afraid to be frank in your comments... feel free to completely disagree with my assessments. Thanks in advance!

    #1: Lightroom 3 - This was largely a matter of fiddling around with color channels after B&W conversion, along with the usual global adjustments for tonal curve, etc.... I like the way the tiles on the fountain pop, but the brick pavement is rather bland. I think this would benefit greatly from some local adjustments, but LR just doesn't have the masked layering capability to draw out specific areas independently.

    B&W Study: Variations on a Scene

    #2: Photoshop CS5 - I like this treatment better than the LR conversion. This was an experiment, so I was deliberately trying for different treatments here, but it seems to me that the wooden doors to the arched entry are just wrong in this one... need to be darker, with more contrast and detail. IMO, this image has the best treatment of the foreground plants.

    B&W Study: Variations on a Scene

    #3: SEP2 - This has much more detail in the door, but the foreground plants just look over-sharpened and "edgy" to me. Probably too much structure. I like the detail visible in the brick pavement, but the fountain in the courtyard just doesn't pop.

    B&W Study: Variations on a Scene

    #4: SOOC (for reference) - This was the basis for all of the preceding B&W conversions.

    B&W Study: Variations on a Scene
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 13th September 2011 at 09:40 PM. Reason: removed duplicate sentence

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    dje's Avatar
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    Re: B&W Study: Variations on a Scene

    Al I'm a rank amateur with B&W but I'll put my two bobs worth in anyway. I'm sure Donald and others can provide more enlightened comment.

    For me, overall, I prefer #3. I think it looks terrific in lightbox. (I have to admit I like sharpness !). Just looking at the colour image, I wouldn't have expected it to convert so well to B&W but I think the image is all about the different textures. I prefer the B&W to the colour in this case.

    One thing that I have come to realise with B&W is the tremendous variety in grey tones you can get throughout an image and that suitable processing is quite an art.

    Thanks for sharing

    Cheers Dave

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    ddp4me's Avatar
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    Re: B&W Study: Variations on a Scene

    Al,

    I'm an amateur with B&W as well but agree with Dave. I really like #3. The detail in the door is beautiful and it is the only one that got the color tone of the fountain right. The shadow on the pavement is more subtle (looks muddy in CS5). There are too may blacks in the foliage on the right for me in #2 and not enough lights in #1.

    I will have to check out silver effect pro for myself.

    Thanks for the post, very nice!
    Darlene

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: B&W Study: Variations on a Scene

    Al

    As you imply in your comments, so much of this depends of the person operating the sliders. You can make a great image with one or other of the tools and really screw it up with the others and vice-versa. I think each tool demands that you devote time to it to learn it and to understand what you can and, even more importantly, cant; do with it.

    I am using Silver Efex Pro 2 and it is a very, very powerful tool in terms of allowing the user to achieve the vision that was there when the image was captured. But, equally, we can see from the likes of Michael Freeman in 'The Complete Guide to Black & White Digital Photography' (Ilex, 2009), that in the hands of a craftsperson and artist, equally wonderful results can be achieved with the B & W dialogue in the Adobe products.

    I notice you writing, in relation to the SEP2 image, that you feel the fountain doesn't 'pop'. To achieve that, for example, I would have been putting a contrl point on that and upping the Fine Structure. On the leaves you coulfd have lowered structure to remove the over-sharpened look. And, again, you could have adjusted the tonality of the foliage by adjusting the sliders under 'Sensitivity' in the 'Film Types' section.

    So, there are thousands of permutations that could come into play when you start to compare one conversion tool with another. I think it's very much about trying them out until you feel you've got the one that's 'right' for you.

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    Snarkbyte's Avatar
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    Re: B&W Study: Variations on a Scene

    @Dave: Thanks for the comments, Dave. Overall, I agree that #3 is the best of the lot, but the plants still look over-sharpened to me. I do like the detail visible in the door, the bricks, and the pavement, though.

    @Darlene: Thanks, Darlene. SEP2 is a powerful product, but for me, anyway, it's not as simple or intuitive as PS or LR, so it requires some practice. Maybe it's just because I'm more familiar with the Adobe products, and the control point sliders seem a bit over-sensitive. But it does produce excellent results when I manage to get it right... I love how it brought out the subtle details on the walkway in the tunnel, for example.

    @Donald: Thanks for the comments. A more normal workflow would include some processing in each of these products, but I wanted to study the tools and results of each, independently of the others, so I could see the differences clearly. Certainly, no one should think my efforts constitute "the best that could be done" with any one of these products. Mostly, I need enough knowledge and experience to "aim for a target", instead of just fiddling to see what I can get (it's the photographer, not the tool, that makes the shot). I'll look for Freeman's book.

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