Color to black and white conversions are radical transformations of an image. They establish the tonal foundations of a neutral image, creating tonal relationships by determining which areas of an image become light and which are dark. While this process can generate some localized effects (all blues become darker or lighter), this is quite different than selectively lightening and darkening an image to accentuate existing tonal relationships (only select blue areas become darker or lighter). Selectively enhance a tonal structure after conversion, rather than before. Selective enhancement may yield dramatic results.

Here are two ways.


Method 1

Create a new layer set to a blend mode of Overlay. Use an appropriately-sized soft-edged brush. Paint with black to darken and white to lighten. Vary the opacity of the brush to control the intensity of the effect – lower is less, higher is more. If you’re not sure what percentage to use, it’s very rare that you will be when you first begin enhancing an image, take this approach.

Paint areas with a single broad stroke and use the Fade command (Edit: Fade or Shift: Command/Control: F) to modify Opacity. (Ignore the option to change Blend Mode; this is rarely helpful and far too complex.) This allows you to determine opacity visually with a dynamic preview and generates a smoother effect. Additionally, opacity can be reduced to 0% to eliminate the effect. Note that you can only Fade the last stroke made, so until you determine a precise opacity, fade each stroke after making it. Once you know the opacity desired for a given area you can set the brush to that opacity and continue painting without fading.

If you find you’d like to reduce the effect use a soft-edged eraser, at any percentage. This way you can selectively reduce or eliminate the effect.

Use the opacity of the Brush and Eraser tools to control the opacity of the effect. If you use the Opacity of the layer to limit one part of the effect you’ll limit the effect of all areas and won’t be able to generate a stronger effect.


Method 2

Selectively lightening and darkening with an Overlay layer generates stronger or weaker variations of a simple contrast response. If you’d like to generate a more specific contrast response, use another method. Roughly select an area; create a Curves adjustment layer that generates a specific contrast response; blur the layer mask; refine the mask with a soft-edged brush. This will allow you to precisely modify brightness and contrast. Just as the effect can become more complex, so can your layer stack when you use this method. It will generate multiple adjustment layers. (File them in a Group.) For instance, you cannot lighten and darken with a single layer and you’ll need two adjustment layers for different types of contrast. That said, no other method delivers the same precision.

Use the first method for basic moves (and industrial strength problems in dark shadows and bright highlights). Use the second method for very precise moves.

Periodically turn off these effect layers to monitor your progress. You’ll be amazed at how quickly and dramatically you can enhance an image.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Learn more in my Black & White Mastery workshop.

Read more about black & white photography here.


Awareness of the distortions produced by angle of view and lens choice is the beginning of using them creatively. Curiously, permission is the beginning of using distortion in post-processing creatively. Many people have been told that it’s inappropriate to do so. Why? Why accept an unintended mechanical by-product, but not a consciously intended effect? Why take such a powerful tool for expression off the table? Even the subtlest applications of distortion can produce powerful results. Once you understand what kinds of distortions are possible during post-processing, you may even find yourself changing your angle of view during exposure.

There are many reasons why you might want to distort an image. Here are four:

1. Correct optical distortion that can be produced by many things, including lens choice, angle of view, motion, panoramic stitches, etc. You can choose to make the selection of a wide-angle lens less about distortion and more about including more.

2. Modify proportion; adjust the height and/or width of objects and/or areas. Just for starters, take off the 10 pounds that the camera adds on.

3. Change proximity; reduce or increase the spaces between objects. Make things feel more or less related.

4. Enhance or change gesture; make a leaning object more tilted or straighten it out. Think of this as adding the words “very” or “less” into a sentence.

When exploring the many distortion tools in Photoshop, you’ll find that the Liquify filter is one of the most powerful. The Liquify filter is so powerful that, when in use, it offers its own toolbar and menus, somewhat like Camera Raw. To get the most of the Liquify filter, it’s worth taking the full tour …

Read all the details on Digital Photo Pro.

Photoshop’s sophisticated distortion capabilities are relatively new to photography and so is the mind-set of using them to photographers. Both are worth acquiring. Everyone can find a use for them, at one time or another, if not on every image. As every photographer uses distortion to one degree or another, ultimately what separates photographers is not whether they use distortion, but when, how and why they use it. The same tools can be used to achieve entirely different effects. There’s a world of difference between using distortion to remove process artifacts for more accurate representations, using distortion to aesthetically refine the formal qualities of images and using distortion to expressively interpret subjects. Intent is everything. Practice is a reflection of intent. Simply asking yourself how far you are and aren’t willing to go and, finally, why, will help clarify yours. Consider these questions seriously, and you’ll find your vision will grow stronger and clearer.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

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OPTIC 2015 featured dynamic presentations by the world’s top outdoor photographers and gear from the premier manufacturers over three days in New York City brought to you by B&H and Lindblad Expeditions.

Couldn’t attend in person or want to review at your own pace? Now you can view all the presentations of your favorite speakers from the conference.

I presented tips and strategies For Mastering Color In Photoshop. Watch it and you’ll get a taste for the artistic perspective and advanced color adjustment strategies I offer in my digital photography and digital printing workshops. You’ll see in new ways.

View Mastering Color In Photoshop here.

Incubation X


Wouldn’t it be great if you could selectively adjust colors based on how saturated they are in Photoshop? You can! How? With a free plug-in Adobe provides called Multiplugin; it hasn’t been updated since Photoshop CS5, but it still works with current versions.

Why Would You Want To Do This?

Do you have images where semi-neutrals aren’t saturated enough, but you don’t want other colors to get too saturated? Select the less saturated colors before adjusting them. Do you have images where you’d like to reduce the saturation of very saturated colors without affecting other levels of saturation? Select the more saturated colors before adjusting them. You even can select colors with medium saturation, separating them from both the high and low range of saturation. Using this technique, you can produce subtle color effects that aren’t possible with any other method.

Saturation masks aren’t for saturation adjustments only. This simple selection/mask can be used with any color adjustment tool in Photoshop, greatly expanding your ability to adjust color. Imagine adjusting the lightness and/or hue of high, medium or low ranges of saturation independently of one another.

Read more here.

Download Adobe’s free Multiplugin here. Mac or PC.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

“Discover new features and enhancements in Lightroom CC including faster performance, improved local adjustment tools, HTML 5 compatible web galleries, and more!”

View more Lightroom videos here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops here.

“Learn how easy it is to stitch together multiple files into a panorama that has all of the editing flexibility of a raw file in Lightroom CC.”

It’s one of the best new features in Lightroom CC!

View more Lightroom videos here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops here.

“Discover how to combine bracketed exposures into a High Dynamic Range image that has all of the editing flexibility of a raw file.”

It’s one of the best new features in Lightroom CC!

View more Lightroom videos here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops here.


Want to learn about the new Lightroom CC / Lightroom 6?

Learn from the experts!

Seth Resnick and Jamie Spritzer (D-65), long-time industry leaders in digital imaging workflow, detail all the new features in their new ebook.

It’s free!

Download your free copy here.

Adobe Evangelist Julianne Kost shows you how to automatically tag images with faces using Lightroom CC’s new Facial Recognition feature.

View more Lightroom videos here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Adobe Evangelist Julianne Kost creates a Panorama using the brand new tools in Adobe Camera Raw 9.

View more Lightroom videos here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

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