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Author Topic: Black and White Conversion  (Read 7167 times)
Alan Goldhammer
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« on: December 11, 2009, 08:53:20 AM »
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I looked in the archives to see if there was a thread on this and couldn't find anything terribly recent.  About 50% of my work is B&W (I guess because that is what I did in the "old" film days).  A number of options exist from working solely in Lightroom through either grayscale conversion of desaturation to the Photoshop tools (the B&W conversion tool, using the RGB channels, etc).  Some images seem to only require Lightroom to come out with the proper balance but others require far much work.  About 60% of my images only require Lightroom and I do some broad color adjustments before moving to the gray scale conversion (I rarely use the desaturation approach since Lightroom 2 doesn't present the noise problem that was there in early versions).  I tried the Nik Silver Efex plug in but didn't see that it offered anything more than LR or PS.

I'm curious what other folks experience is.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2009, 09:10:30 AM »
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Hi Alan,

Hard to know how to respond to this, because so much depends on your expectations and requirements. Anyhow, as you asked for others' experience. Here goes. There is a plethora of material on the internet about B&W conversions - umpteen methods and plugins which have been around for a long time and much of which ends up relating back to Photoshop's Channel Mixer. Then Lightroom came along with its B&W conversion tools, which I frankly find fully satisfactory for a high percentage of the B&W stuff that I do - but that of course relates only to what satisfies me - and some people who look at my photos. It really does provide a lot of control over the look of the image, when you play with the colour sliders either alone, or in conjunction with the other luminosity editing functions in the panels above. I also use Nik SilverEfex Pro, and there again, it offers so many possible permutations and combinations of global and local B&W effects, that I'm not sure what else one could ask for. Seriously, it would be educational to understand more clearly what you find lacking in these tools.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2009, 09:26:14 AM »
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And there are several of us old-timers who are still using the Convert-to-Black-and-White-Pro plugin, which, alas, is no longer available. It worked fine in CS2, CS3, and now CS4, and is so versatile and easy to use (especially for someone with many years of B&W darkroom experience), that I still haven't even bothered trying the conversions in LR (which otherwise is my main raw converter now).

The descriptions I have read of using the channel mixer in PS make it sound so ugly, ugly, ugly, that I would never use that. either Silver Efex or LR may be pretty good, but I just don't know.

Eric

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-Eric Myrvaagnes

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Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2009, 09:32:03 AM »
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Quote from: MarkDS
Hi Alan,

Hard to know how to respond to this, because so much depends on your expectations and requirements. Anyhow, as you asked for others' experience. Here goes. There is a plethora of material on the internet about B&W conversions - umpteen methods and plugins which have been around for a long time and much of which ends up relating back to Photoshop's Channel Mixer. Then Lightroom came along with its B&W conversion tools, which I frankly find fully satisfactory for a high percentage of the B&W stuff that I do - but that of course relates only to what satisfies me - and some people who look at my photos. It really does provide a lot of control over the look of the image, when you play with the colour sliders either alone, or in conjunction with the other luminosity editing functions in the panels above. I also use Nik SilverEfex Pro, and there again, it offers so many possible permutations and combinations of global and local B&W effects, that I'm not sure what else one could ask for. Seriously, it would be educational to understand more clearly what you find lacking in these tools.
Mark,

I don't find anything lacking and share your experience about LR.  It's very difficult from either books or Internet postings (of which I've read a lot).  Alsheimer and Hughes book on B&W covers all the coversion pathways in both PS and LR but other than some rudimentary statements about trying everything (which is of course OK in that respect) don't give a thorough evaluation of why one approach would be better than another.  DeWolfe's book appears to champion LR as the main approach and has develope PerceptTool (can't remember the exact name of the software) plug in for doing some final enhancements.  I'm happy with using LR but the post was one more of curiosity of whether others find something lacking in that approach.  I'm pretty much in line with your comments.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2009, 09:41:47 AM »
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Quote from: EricM
And there are several of us old-timers who are still using the Convert-to-Black-and-White-Pro plugin, which, alas, is no longer available. It worked fine in CS2, CS3, and now CS4, and is so versatile and easy to use (especially for someone with many years of B&W darkroom experience), that I still haven't even bothered trying the conversions in LR (which otherwise is my main raw converter now).

The descriptions I have read of using the channel mixer in PS make it sound so ugly, ugly, ugly, that I would never use that. either Silver Efex or LR may be pretty good, but I just don't know.

Eric

Eric, I also used Convert to B&W Pro and liked it very much, but with LR and Silver Efex Pro I find it's still an option, but no longer offers a unique advantage as it once did. And nothing really ugly about using Channel mixer - once you try it you'll see, it isn't rocket science and you can do a lot with it, but it's more effort and again a technique that's been arguably by-passed with the newer mouse traps.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
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« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2009, 09:44:05 AM »
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Quote from: Alan Goldhammer
Mark,

I don't find anything lacking and share your experience about LR.  It's very difficult from either books or Internet postings (of which I've read a lot).  Alsheimer and Hughes book on B&W covers all the coversion pathways in both PS and LR but other than some rudimentary statements about trying everything (which is of course OK in that respect) don't give a thorough evaluation of why one approach would be better than another.  DeWolfe's book appears to champion LR as the main approach and has develope PerceptTool (can't remember the exact name of the software) plug in for doing some final enhancements.  I'm happy with using LR but the post was one more of curiosity of whether others find something lacking in that approach.  I'm pretty much in line with your comments.

Alan, speaking of books, the one you didn't mention and I would highly recommend is Amadou Diallo's "Digital Black and White". It covers more than that, but his chapters on B&W are very good, clear and goes into the ins and outs of the various techniques quite nicely. He also commends LR highly.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
sniper
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« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2009, 03:19:34 PM »
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Which desaturation method did you try using in lighroom? are you using the global desaturation or taking the individual sliders down to zero? I use the later method (with a preset) as I can then use the individual luminance sliders for more control over the tonal range.
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Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2009, 03:42:18 PM »
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Quote from: sniper
Which desaturation method did you try using in lighroom? are you using the global desaturation or taking the individual sliders down to zero? I use the later method (with a preset) as I can then use the individual luminance sliders for more control over the tonal range.
The individual sliders and then creating a preset that can be used for future images in this manner.  I don't use that one very much as I prefer the greyscale conversion and then going from there with the other tools.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2009, 03:42:51 PM by Alan Goldhammer » Logged

john beardsworth
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« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2009, 03:51:16 PM »
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Quote from: sniper
Which desaturation method did you try using in lighroom? are you using the global desaturation or taking the individual sliders down to zero? I use the later method (with a preset) as I can then use the individual luminance sliders for more control over the tonal range.
That was merely a workaround for a noise problem in LR (noise reduction being disabled when it b&w mode). Now it's no longer of any value, and prevents you using smart collections or the filter panel to find b&w images.

John
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john beardsworth
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« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2009, 03:53:58 PM »
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Quote from: Alan Goldhammer
The individual sliders and then creating a preset that can be used for future images in this manner.  I don't use that one very much as I prefer the greyscale conversion and then going from there with the other tools.
Use the targeted adjustment tool instead of dragging the sliders. Drag up to lighten an area's rendition in b&w, down to darken it. Instead of continually glancing back and forth between image and sliders, you keep your eye on the picture and how tonal areas are being rendered in b&w.

John
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stamper
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« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2009, 04:21:56 AM »
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Quote from: MarkDS
Alan, speaking of books, the one you didn't mention and I would highly recommend is Amadou Diallo's "Digital Black and White". It covers more than that, but his chapters on B&W are very good, clear and goes into the ins and outs of the various techniques quite nicely. He also commends LR highly.

Based on this post I have just ordered this book. Before doing so I looked at several reviews.

http://www.masteringdigitalbwbook.com/reviews.html

That was one among others.

They were all glowing and from well known names. The exception was on the UK Amazon site where I ordered it. It was the only review.

Quote

The title of this book is deceiving. I bought it because I thought it would cover techniques to convert digital photos to black&white in depth but it doesn't. The first third of the book is a very basic explanation of digital cameras, computers, and printers. Very basic. I would assume that if you want to know about "High Quality Black-And-White Imaging and Printing" you don't need to be told how your digital camera sensor works or what a hard drive is. The next part of the book explains very basic manipulations in Photoshop. Again, very basic, it barely touches dodging and burning, no mention of local contrast enhancement, effects, or other interesting techniques. The last section is about paper and basic printing. Unless you've never used a computer, Photoshop, and a printer, you're not going to find useful information in this book.

Unquote

This is completely contradictory to all the others which I chose to believe. Based on the above review this would put many people off buying it if it was the only one they read? The reviewer is of course entitled to his opinion but one wonders why Amazon allowed it?
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tokengirl
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« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2009, 05:18:04 AM »
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I use Silver Efex Pro.  I feel it's easier to use and gives better results in less time.  I think the set of tools provided in SEP is very intuitive for anyone who has shot and processed a lot of B&W film.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2009, 07:01:47 AM »
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You can still download Convert To B&W Pro from this page, although it's no longer being updated. It's still a great plugin...
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john beardsworth
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« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2009, 09:06:59 AM »
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Quote from: stamper
The reviewer is of course entitled to his opinion but one wonders why Amazon allowed it?
Because not doing so would be deceitful. When you've read the book and made your own mind up, post your review.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2009, 09:43:10 AM »
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Quote from: stamper
Based on this post I have just ordered this book. Before doing so I looked at several reviews.

http://www.masteringdigitalbwbook.com/reviews.html

That was one among others.

They were all glowing and from well known names. The exception was on the UK Amazon site where I ordered it. It was the only review.

Quote

The title of this book is deceiving. I bought it because I thought it would cover techniques to convert digital photos to black&white in depth but it doesn't. The first third of the book is a very basic explanation of digital cameras, computers, and printers. Very basic. I would assume that if you want to know about "High Quality Black-And-White Imaging and Printing" you don't need to be told how your digital camera sensor works or what a hard drive is. The next part of the book explains very basic manipulations in Photoshop. Again, very basic, it barely touches dodging and burning, no mention of local contrast enhancement, effects, or other interesting techniques. The last section is about paper and basic printing. Unless you've never used a computer, Photoshop, and a printer, you're not going to find useful information in this book.

Unquote

This is completely contradictory to all the others which I chose to believe. Based on the above review this would put many people off buying it if it was the only one they read? The reviewer is of course entitled to his opinion but one wonders why Amazon allowed it?

The review is correct insofar as the book does cover a lot of basic stuff aside from Black and White conversion. I mentioned in my comment that it covers more than B&W. What it does cover of B&W, I maintain it does well. Anyone is entitled to their own opinion of a book and to post it. Amazon won't censor peoples' reviews unless they engage in slanderous or otherwise illegal behaviour. Every one comes at this with different needs and expectations, and Amazon respects that.

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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
JeffKohn
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« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2009, 10:42:14 AM »
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Quote from: stamper
This is completely contradictory to all the others which I chose to believe. Based on the above review this would put many people off buying it if it was the only one they read? The reviewer is of course entitled to his opinion but one wonders why Amazon allowed it?
That review is dead-on IMHO. The Diallo book is very basic; it tries to cover everything remotely related to B/W photography, but ends up being only a very broad overview with no real depth on any topic. It is very much a "beginners" book IMHO, and should not have "Mastering" in the title. I bought this book when it first came out based on all the glowing reviews, and was very disappointed. I wish I had seen some reviews like the one above, it would have saved me some money.

I find your comment about why would Amazon allow such a review puzzling. Amazon doesn't censor negative reviews (unless they break rules regarding profanity or such), and why would they? It wouldn't be a very useful review system if they only allowed positive reviews. They have a voting system where people can register whether they consider a review helpful or not (and BTW that particular review has been rated quite positively).
« Last Edit: December 12, 2009, 10:45:08 AM by JeffKohn » Logged

Wayne Fox
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« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2009, 02:32:14 PM »
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Quote from: johnbeardy
Because not doing so would be deceitful. When you've read the book and made your own mind up, post your review.

Assuming the reader actually read the book.  A cursory glance through the book might lead one to draw the conclusions by that reviewer.  A closer examination of the book reveals in most of these areas there is a discussion on how they relate to black and white.  For example there are "basic" photoshop techniques covered to make sure the reader can actually perform some of the local black and white adjustments later in the book.

I'm not saying the reviewer is completely wrong, but as with any book you have to try to write the information so it helps all readers, not just the ones that are already experts in some areas.  Any book of this type will have information which is redundant for more advanced photographers.

I have the book but have not read it - I just haven't gotten around to it yet.  I have glanced through it a few times, also noting much of the information is basic or things I already feel I understand, but also noticed several things that weren't that familiar.  Whether any of that information is helpful to someone already somewhat skilled in B&W conversion I can't say.  But even advanced photographers may lack the understanding of good black and white conversions and may find the book helpful.

I do not consider myself skilled in B&W so I shy away from them.  For the few occasions I do try a black and white conversion (and they seem to be getting a little more frequent), I usually try three different things.  First a Lightroom conversion.  The target adjustment tool is really helpful.  Second a channel mixer conversion - old habit which I probably will quit doing because the LR conversion always seems to be better.  Finally I use a method taught by Jeff Schewe at Photoshop world which allow localized control of tonal values by using multiple layers derived from the individual channels, the L channel in lab mode, and a straight desaturated conversion then using masks to take advantage of the strengths of the layers.  I end up using the LR conversion about 75% of the time, and this latter conversion the other times.
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Mike Arst
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« Reply #17 on: December 12, 2009, 07:51:24 PM »
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Quote from: Jonathan Wienke
You can still download Convert To B&W Pro from this page, although it's no longer being updated. It's still a great plugin...
I once used a demo version of it -- at the time that it was still supported. I should have registered it then, though I didn't think much back then of attempting digital black and white (and, sigh, still don't have a printer suitable for producing b&w that can come anywhere near the quality of the prints I made in the darkroom years back).

As far as I can tell, the version that can be downloaded from TheImagingFactory site is only (and forever) a demo. The now-expired demo I have runs in "dialog evaluation mode" only -- can't save changes. Unless the author still issues registration codes even though the plug-in can no longer be purchased, it's unusable now. (Note to self: when the little voice whispers in your ear Register it, then register it.)
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NashvilleMike
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« Reply #18 on: December 12, 2009, 10:59:04 PM »
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Quote from: Alan Goldhammer
I looked in the archives to see if there was a thread on this and couldn't find anything terribly recent.  About 50% of my work is B&W (I guess because that is what I did in the "old" film days).  A number of options exist from working solely in Lightroom through either grayscale conversion of desaturation to the Photoshop tools (the B&W conversion tool, using the RGB channels, etc).  Some images seem to only require Lightroom to come out with the proper balance but others require far much work.  About 60% of my images only require Lightroom and I do some broad color adjustments before moving to the gray scale conversion (I rarely use the desaturation approach since Lightroom 2 doesn't present the noise problem that was there in early versions).  I tried the Nik Silver Efex plug in but didn't see that it offered anything more than LR or PS.

I'm curious what other folks experience is.

I am mostly working mostly in B&W these days and I tend to use a variety of techniques.  Primarily I use a blend of two images, as follows:

Method 1
Blend Candidate 1: Silver EFX Pro (always with a customized preset - I didn't like the prebuilt ones and it took me a while to like this program - don't give up on it prematurely IMO, I almost did and would have regretted it)
Blend Candidate 2: B&W conversion from the B&W option in CS4

Method 2
Blend Candidate 1: Silver EFX as described above
Blend Candidate 2: B&W output from Nikon Capture NX2 using one of my customized monochrome picture controls.

At times I might also add a blend candidate where I take the final of either method above and convert it to duotone in photoshop (boy, I wish they'd do 16 bit for duotones...) and then blend that guy back into the original very lightly just to get a slightly warmer tone, or I'll use the color mixer and fade it back quite a bit to add just a tiny smidge of warmth to the blacks.

The percentages of each candidate in the final blend is totally up in the air - sometimes the Silver EFX version is predominant, sometimes it's just a very small percentage to change the tonality of things, and sometimes I like one version enough on it's own that I go with it. All depends. I do find that having a very accurate monitor is hugely helpful in determining what's going to work. (I use an NEC 2490 w/ Spectraview).

-m

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stamper
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« Reply #19 on: December 13, 2009, 03:30:35 AM »
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Quote from: johnbeardy
Because not doing so would be deceitful. When you've read the book and made your own mind up, post your review.

The point that I was trying to make was that there is only one review that was negative and there wasn't a review that was positive that would have balanced it? That imo is bad news for the publisher? A spiteful person could ruin sales if Amazon doesn't balance it with a positive review. The moral of the story is of course to look at other opinions?
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