Black & White Mastery

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Explore the wonderful world of black and white, a very special form of color.

 

1. Expanding The Definition Of Black & White
The term “black & white” is not as simple as you might think..

2. How Gray Is Gray ? 
Both context and personal preference make this a surprisingly challenging question.

3. What’s Unique About Black & White 
Black & white is special, in so many ways.

4. Why You Need To Understand Color To Get The Best B&W Images 

Color affects the exposure, processing, and printing of B&W images.

5. Seeing In Black & White
Learn what’s unique about black & white and how to best adjust and print it.

6. An Overview Of Color To Black & White Conversions
My preferred workflow for color to black & white conversions.

7. Optimizing Files Before Black & White Conversions (Coming Soon)
Prepare your color images before conversion to black & white to gain maximum control.

8. B&W Conversions Simple 1 – B&W Adjustment Layer | Download
The easiest way make color to black and white conversions.

9. B&W Conversions Simple 2 – Dual Adjustment Layers | Download
Dual adjustment layers offer even more control.

10. B&W Conversions Complex – Channels as Layers | Download
The most advanced color to black-and-white conversion method.

11. Adding Color To Black & White | Download 
Adding color to a neutral image can enhance the expression of any image.

12. Simulating Infrared (Adobe Photoshop Master Class) | .99
Create the look of infrared with Adobe Photoshop (all versions)

13. Enhancing Local Contrast In Black & White Images
The best ways to dodge and burn detailed.

14. 5 Strategies For Adding Color Back Into Black & White 
There are as many reasons to add color back into B&W photographs as there are ways to do it

15. Top 5 Ways To Add Color To Black & White 
By adding color to your b&w photos, you can enhance their expressive qualities.

16. Epson Driver – Advanced B&W Photo
Use the Epson driver to make the best black & white prints.

17. Black & White Signature Styles 
Like so many other artists, you too can learn to craft a unique black and white look.

18. 5 Photographers With Signature Black & White Styles 
Study the masters to find new possibilities in black and white photography.

 

Watch a shorter video Essence Of B&W Mastery.

 

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Why You Need To Understand Color To Get The Best B&W Images

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 Why do you need to understand color to get the best black-and-white images?
Let me count the reasons.
1          You Need To Understand How Flexible The Luminosity Of Saturated Colors During Exposure And Conversion
Understanding how light and/or dark you can make saturated colors will help you pre-visualize the tonal possibilities within an image before exposure. When post-processing, while you’re converting color images to black-and-white, I recommend you make all of these ideas visible realities, making many different black and white versions and comparing them side-by-side. At the same time, you need to understand how neutral and near neutral colors do not offer the same flexibility, which will improve both your vision and your efficiency.


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The Problems With Calling Them B&W Photographs

Suffusion VIII
You may not think there’s a problem. You may think you know the difference. It’s obvious right? But is it? Do you? After a lifetime spent in the arts, I find photographers’ ability to describe color woefully limited, and this is never truer than when describing “black-and-white” images.
Most antique processes are black and white, right? Certainly, silver gelatin is black and white. But what if you tone it? Is a platinum print black and white or brown and white? Is a cyanotype black and white or blue and white? What about hand-tinted photographs? They were black and white but then they became colorful again, but it’s a different kind of color, isn’t it? And if only a little color is added is it still black and white? At what point does an image become black and white?
The problem is that having only two terms – color and black and white – for a wide array of color palettes limits not only our communication but more importantly our perception and thinking.


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Why Black & White And Color Images Don’t Mix

Revelation XXVI
Can you effectively present a project or body of work that contains both black-and-white and color images? It rarely works, but in rare cases it can.
The problem is that color and black-and-white images appear to be from different times or even different worlds and sometimes both. They’re so different from one another that presenting them together breaks the continuity of the larger story being told (Even a collection of separate poems creates a larger story, albeit with a much looser narrative and context than an essay.) and it undermines the suspension of disbelief required to imagine that a small two-dimensional image accurately represents our much larger three-dimensional world. Viewers end up paying more attention to the way the images are presented and our attention is deflected away from their content. We spend time and effort trying to figure out a pattern between images that are color and images that are black-and-white and the reasons why they’re different from one another, which is wasted if there aren’t any. “It looks better.” isn’t a strong enough reason to break continuity and suspension of disbelief. If there is no reason that contributes to the content of the series, then it’s a few small wins for individuals but a big loss for the team, and we leave the work feeling confused and frustrated. (“I don’t get. Is it me?”) For these reasons it’s best not to mix color and black-and-white images. Instead, present them separately.


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5 Photographers With Signature B&W Styles

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You can learn a lot just by looking at great photographs.
Want to learn more about black and white images?
Start by studying these five photographers.
010_Steiglitz
Alfred Stieglitz explored the softer sensibility of platinum with muted blacks, very full highlights, and a surprising range of tints.
View 12 Great Photographs By Alfred Stieglitz here.
02_adams
Ansel Adams epitomized the modern sensibility with deep blacks, bright whites, and a full smooth range of tones in between.
View 12 Great Photographs By Ansel Adams here.
01_BrettWeston
Brett Weston moved modern photography towards abstraction with extreme contrast often eliminating shadow and sometimes highlight detail.
View 12 Great Photographs By Brett Weston here.
01_Witherill
Huntington Witherill advances the classic modern sensibility into the contemporary by achieving extreme separation in even the deepest blacks and the brightest whites, often side-by-side.
View 12 Great Photographs By Huntington Witherill here.
10_Tenneson
Joyce Tenneson has explored many high key black and white palettes over her career – neutral in her early years, semi-neutral tints mid-career, and more recently gold-leafed.
View 12 Great Photographs By Joyce Tenneson here.
View more 12 Great Photographs Collections here.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

5 Strategies For Adding Color Into B&W Photographs

2) journey grayscale
There are as many reasons to add color back into black-and-white photographs as there are ways to do it.
3) journey duotone custom copy3) journey duotone custom
You can change the emotional tone of photographs when you add warm or cool tints to them.
2) journey grayscale copy
You can separate areas of a photograph by toning them differently.
5) journey splittone
You can enhance the illusion of volume in a photograph by adding different colors into highlights and shadows; typically highlights are warm and shadows are cool.
3) journey duotone custom copy (1)
You can increase volume further by adding gradations of hue in specific regions of a photograph; typically this is done with brushes.
6) journey subdued color
You can add still greater realistic complexity by restoring trace amounts of the original color.
1) journey full color
If you increase the saturation of any of these treatments beyond a low level, you turn black-and-white photographs into color photographs.
Read more in my Black & White lessons.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

The Essence Of Black & White Mastery – Video


In my presentation (sponsored by Canon) at B&H’s OPTIC 2016 Conference I share unique insights into black and white photography including – why black and white are colors, why you need color management, ways of seeing in black and white, how to prepare files for conversion to black and white, how to tone black and white images, 5 classic styles of black and white photography and more.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.
Read more with my black and white resources.
View more in my DVD Black and White Mastery.

Seeing in Black and White

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Learning to see in black and white has changed. Prior to the 21st century, black and white photographers developed a heightened sensitivity to intensity and direction of light as well as tonal relationships between highlights and shadows. For the most part, they discounted the appearance of hue and saturation, with a few exceptions.
These perceptual skills are still very important for 21st century digital black and white photographers. But, today, previsualizing possibilities becomes much more challenging. Because you can make any hue light or dark, globally or locally, dramatically extending the variability of an image's tonal structure, the two additional variables, hue and saturation, need to be factored in rather than factored out.


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Many Ways To Convert Color To Black & White

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 There are at many ways to convert an image from color to black and white. Here's a roundup and evaluation of the top seven plus a set of considerations to help you choose the best one for your needs.
1          Desaturate
Desaturate or use the Saturation slider to make all the channels the same without control over the mix. Desaturaton is useful for near neutral images, otherwise it produces compressed tonal structure.
2          Convert Mode To Grayscale
Grayscale conversions eliminate all channels but one. The default mix is 59% Green, 29% Red, 11% Blue. This can be customized by targeting a single channel before conversion, to get 100% of any channel in any color space, including Lab. Quick and direct, this method eliminates future flexibility; its limited use is to create Grayscale images for reproduction but it's not the best way to make a conversion from color to black and white.
3          Channel Mixer
The Channel Mixer set to Monochrome allows you to customize the mix of channels and can be used as an adjustment layer, which allows you to change the mix at any time in the future.


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How Gray is Gray?

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In the vernacular the phrase “black and white” can be used to describe definitive answers, while the use of the phrase “gray areas” often means an area defies easy definition making it difficult to draw hard and fast lines.
While there is a general consensus as to what constitutes the colors black, white and gray, opinions vary significantly when it comes to identifying absolute blacks, whites, and grays.
Which of these colors is absolutely neutral? Which are warmer than neutral? Which are cooler than neutral? All of them are nearly neutral when compared to fully saturated colors. More importantly, which colors do you prefer? Which colors would most enhance the images you are producing?
It ‘s helpful to sensitize yourself to these many possibilities and to identify your personal preferences.
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.