Posts tagged with Black and white

Black and white – my speciality

“Readable and inspiring”

My Advanced Digital Black and White Photography is now available. “Readable and inspiring”, says Amateur Photographer magazine.

What’s your workflow to Nik software?

What’s your workflow to Nik software?

If you own Lightroom and Photoshop, Photoshop “smart objects” are the best way to use Nik apps.

The workflow is easy. Do all your corrections in LR then select the image, right click and choose Edit In > Open as Smart Object in Photoshop. Then in Photoshop select the smart object in the Layers Palette (F7), invoke Silver Efex, and afterwards save as a TIF.

Why is this?

Send to Photoshop as a smart object avoids baking in the raw conversion adjustments
Smart objects means the Silver Efex work remains editable as a smart filter
TIF because non-proprietary and there’s nothing a PSD can do that a TIF can’t do just as well

Any downsides?

File size is bigger – but why economize on space when extra drives are cheap?
Cost – you need matching versions of Lightroom and Photoshop

Why not convert to B&W using the HSL panel?

Back in the days of Lightroom 1.1, the B&W panel had a big defect – it disabled the Luminance noise slider – so Martin Evening and I (among others) recommended using the HSL panel. This meant setting all the colours’ Saturation values to -100% and then dragging the Luminance sliders, white balance, and other colour sliders.

This method was only ever a workaround to avoid noise – Adobe soon fixed the problem and made the HSL workaround obsolete. Yet people still use it, even recommend it.

Why you shouldn’t use it:

Just because you’re using lots more sliders/panels doesn’t mean you’re actually doing something any better!

It’s unhelpful in organising your work – Library records pictures treated with this HSL method as still being colour images, so you can’t use distinguish B&W from colour versions using either smart collections or the filter panel.

Nowadays the HSL method’s value in B&W is when you want to more…

What’s the best way to convert to B&W?

What is the best way to make pictures black and white?

Go to the B&W panel in Develop’s right hand side and activate the targeted adjustment tool. That’s the little button at the top left of the B&W panel. It makes the cursor look like a pair of arrows which you can drag on the image itself. As you drag, LR moves the sliders for you.

Drag up and you lighten how that area appears in greyscale, downward darkens it. The important thing about this method is that it means you keep your eye on the picture’s changing appearance all the time you are adjusting it. That makes it much better than guessing which slider you should drag, and continually moving your eyes between the picture and the sliders. You inevitably produce a better black and white version, and faster too.

Silver Efex Pro 2

I’ve never been one who photographs in colour and occasionally dabbles with black and white. It’s very much the other way round, and I often look at pictures I’ve left in colour and think they’re rather monochrome anyway. But I’ve never seen doing a lot of b&w work as a reason why I would want to buy Nik’s Silver Efex Pro (SEP) or any of the other dedicated black and white plug-ins that it has now overshadowed. It’s not that I felt SEP1 deficient in any way – quite the contrary. SEP1 was a very polished piece of software, produced good results quickly (even if I doubted the film simulations), and I could certainly see why people liked it so much. I simply felt its price was steep, and I’ve not feel any real need for it.

Nonetheless, I was looking forward to seeing Silver Efex Pro 2 and these seem more…

B&W from different angles

There’s an interesting comparison of doing black and white in Capture One 6, Silver Efex 1, and Lightroom 3 by Mike at The Intuitive Lens. It’s a two parter with Capture One vs Silver Efex and then both vs Lightroom.

I’m not sure it proves much, if anything, other than one if one tries to do so one can produce similar results in different products!

Leaving settings at default is a little odd, and there’s no real attempt to use the b&w conversion process to separate neighbouring colours into distinct tones – eg those in the left woman’s blouse or between the brown briefcase in the foreground and the middle person’s red sweater.

Why didn’t he use Lightroom’s targeted adjustment tool, for example? I’d argue that it alone produces better b&w images because you’re keeping your eyes on the image. But it is an interesting exercise.


See discussion here and here.

My view is that more…

Mileage varies

Ben Long reviews Silver Efex Pro and correctly points out one of its best features

The Black and White adjustment in Photoshop is very good because it allows you to make changes to specific color values in your image. The problem is that if you tell it to darken the blue tones in an image, every blue tone will be altered. Silver Efex scores over Photoshop?s built-in Black and White [JB: or Lightroom or Aperture] because it can alter tone and contrast of specific areas, based on color, but constrain the alteration using an automatically created mask.

You could achieve the same effects in Photoshop using multiple Black and White adjustment layers, each configured differently and constrained using hand-built masks.

That’s what I do, and I don’t find it too troublesome.

At the moment Silver Efex Pro’s probably the best b&w conversion and grain utility around, though its film & grain recipes don’t take more…