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Thread: Black (and White)

  1. #1
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Black (and White)

    I don't really understand what makes an outstanding black and white image or when an image should be rendered that way, but, as many folks seem to prefer it, I should learn to comprehend the reasons changing a colour image into B&W.

    I was originally thinking of doing this exercise by using a picture of "The Thinker", a bronze and marble sculpture by Auguste Rodin but it seemed to be lacking something. Then I realized what it was! He needed to be sitting on a potty to make the pose more realistic. Perhaps the Colesseum would be more appropriate to post in the forum.

    And so, here is an image of the Colesseum as I would typically process it in colour:

    Black (and White)


    Here is the same image in Monochrome by just setting the colour image's Vibrance to 0.

    Black (and White)


    And here it is in Black and White by converting the tonal Grey to black and white.

    Black (and White)


    What's to love or hate about this image rendition and composition? What would have to be done to make it better?
    Last edited by FrankMi; 3rd July 2012 at 04:29 PM.

  2. #2

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    Re: Black (and White)

    I tend to find, Frank, that you do need the correct subject to make a good B&W alternative.

    Your straight conversion has a few highlights and some shadow but there are a lot of midtones there which translate into similar shades of grey. The walls and sky end up a bit on the bland side.

    Still a reasonable photo, but it lacks the zip of the original.

    The final edit creates some good strong lines, like a heavy pencil or charcoal drawing. But for me, the sky is a little on the heavy side and the top left corner almost looks like a thumb print.

    Definitely worth a bit more experimentation I would say.

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    Kris V's Avatar
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    Re: Black (and White)

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    I don't really understand what makes an outstanding black and white image or when an image should be rendered that way, but, as many folks seem to prefer it, I should learn to comprehend the reasons changing a colour image into B&W.

    I was originally thinking of doing this exercise by using a picture of "The Thinker", a bronze and marble sculpture by Auguste Rodin but it seemed to be lacking something. Then I realized what it was! He needed to be sitting on a potty to make the pose more realistic. Perhaps the Colesseum would be more appropriate to post in the forum.

    And so, here is an image of the Colesseum as I would typically process it in colour:

    Black (and White)


    Here is the same image in Monochrome by just setting the colour image's Vibrance to 0.

    Black (and White)


    And here it is in Black and White by converting the tonal Grey to black and white.

    Black (and White)


    What's to love or hate about this image rendition and composition? What would have to be done to make it better?
    Hi Frank,
    I'm struggling with the same issues, and to stay on the subject, I am also experimenting into IR conversion. (Yep, retirement has it's benefits - plenty of time to play with pictures!)
    Results are still so-so.
    That said: the 2nd conversion is something I would come up with after playing with layers, Nik SilverFX and whatever else I have installed - FotoSketcher comes to mind. (Translation: I like your picture!)

  4. #4

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    Re: Black (and White)

    I really like the color version, Frank.

    B&W photography is no different than color photography in that you have to begin with a vision and then use your technical skills to achieve it. There are a lot of options when converting from color to B&W just as there are a lot of options when post-processing color images. Just as one example, in addition to the option of rendering the sky a midtone as you did, you could have rendered it very dark or bright. Your idea of simply changing the value of the Vibrance setting makes me wonder if you have taken the opportunity to read up about suggested methods of converting color images to black-and-white. Once you develop a taste for how you like to make your conversions, I really look forward to seeing them!

  5. #5
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: Black (and White)

    Hi Geoff, Kris, and Mike. It will take some experimentation for sure but I think the place I may need to start is with an image that will do well as a B&W. I was hoping that this subject would translate well but perhaps not.

    One of the things I remember reading in the forums was that you needed a composition with high contrast for a successful B&W but I guess this one doesn't have high enough contrast?

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    Re: Black (and White)

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    I may need to start...with an image that will do well as a B&W. I was hoping that this subject would translate well but perhaps not.
    Please don't hesitate to ask me to remove my conversion shown below of your image but I think it works fine as a B&W image. There are a multitude of potential B&W interpretations but I'm happy with this one. That's despite that I had to artificially work with posterization in the sky because I was converting a small JPEG. Notice that my interpretation has whiter whites and blacker blacks, yet I think preserves most of the midtones. The result, at least to my eyes, is more drama that is consistent with the dramatic angle in your original.

    Black (and White)

    One of the things I remember reading in the forums was that you needed a composition with high contrast for a successful B&W but I guess this one doesn't have high enough contrast?
    Don't tell Donald, the moderator, that. He consistently makes some very impressive low-contrast B&W images. A great example is his image that is the first entry in the monthly June competition. Whether we're thinking of color images or black-and-white images, there are all sorts of moving styles ranging from low to high contrast, from high-key to low-key images, and everything in between.

    By the way, it's very easy to adjust the contrast once the color version has been converted to black-and-white. Based on my experience, doing so is a necessity. If you only used the one step that you mentioned, that would explain why your conversion has so much less contrast and dynamic range than my version.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 4th July 2012 at 01:10 AM.

  7. #7

    Re: Black (and White)

    I think you have enough contrast Frank:

    Black (and White)

    And I think it is the right composition. On 90% of my shots I convert to BW, though I never post them as BW's. This method does afford me to look at several aspects of the photo, that for some reason I cant see in color. Here I really liked the four waves crashing into center frame. Your technique is a great first step. For my rendition I started with dropping Sat to zero, and Vib to 100, but that is just to see what the photo looks like with out color. The First step I used here is a BW adjustment layer where I can change the values of R,Y,G,C,B,M from Highlight to Midtones to Shadow. Because I am working off a background copy I can go back to the original, use the color picker to find the range of the color so I dont lose detail. (eg. pinstripes over the archways) Last step for me is to drop in a levels adjustment layer, and tighten up the RGB individually. Hope that makes sense....

    Ryo

  8. #8

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    Re: Black (and White)

    I like your version, Ryo, as much as mine with the exception of the tonal variation in the sky that is present in yours. I used a high-contrast version to deal with that. If we had been working with Frank's original file, I'm confident that there would have been no issues with converting the sky.

    Most important, I hope Frank realizes from your and my conversions that his original color version can be successfully converted to black-and-white.

  9. #9
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    Re: Black (and White)

    Frank, thank you for this thread as it is also of help to me with trying to understand the mysteries of B & W. The last time I posted this sort of exercise, Donald suggested that I should try pushing the contrast further (by applying more contrast and local contrast enhancement), and this image seems to be suited to that approach.

    Black (and White)

    Does this conversion work?

    Philip

  10. #10
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    Re: Black (and White)

    Quote Originally Posted by MrB View Post
    Frank, thank you for this thread as it is also of help to me with trying to understand the mysteries of B & W. The last time I posted this sort of exercise, Donald suggested that I should try pushing the contrast further (by applying more contrast and local contrast enhancement), and this image seems to be suited to that approach.

    Black (and White)

    Does this conversion work?

    Philip
    I think it does Philip.

    I am coming to the realization that I simply don't understand the colourless image look. It looks so artificial to me, but that's just me. I notice that a lot of folks will comment that a particular colour image would look great as a B&W so I feel that I must see the world differently than many other folks.

    Oh well. Not everything I try works out but I do get the benefit of continuing to learn new things!

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