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Question: LR or...?
LR - 23 (65.7%)
other software - 12 (34.3%)
Total Voters: 35

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Author Topic: Black & White  (Read 6931 times)
kengai
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« on: June 11, 2011, 05:25:43 AM »
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Interested in Black and White, what is the best way?
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martinreed22
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« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2011, 05:47:50 AM »
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Sorry, but that's like asking how should I drive in to town - a Ford or something else?

Most of the common tools have trial versions you can download. They are all discussed in depth on both these forums and the wider web. Please don't be surprised if you don't get much feedback.

Regards, Martin
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StuartOnline
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« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2011, 07:03:15 AM »
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Interested in Black and White, what is the best way?

Personally I like to use the plug-in Silver Efex Pro 2.

Stu
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wolfnowl
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« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2011, 02:53:25 PM »
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I'm with Stu... I've done B&W using LR, but I like the Silver Efex Pro 2 plugin.  The borders and some of the effects are quite nice.  They're not mutually incompatible either - Silver Efex Pro doesn't do sharpening or NR for example.

Mike.

Here's one: http://bighugelabs.com/onblack.php?id=5512433241&size=large

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James R
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« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2011, 08:24:26 PM »
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I tried to vote for both, but it took my last entry.  I use LR to tweak the colors, than convert to B&W.  If I'm not happy, I take it over to SilverFox and/or maybe to PS for some work using layers.
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John R Smith
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« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2011, 02:52:32 AM »
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Well, I’ll assume that the OP is in fact asking a serious question, although the way it is put makes me doubt that somehow. The issue that is always neglected in this sort of discussion is the underlying dilemma of digital monochrome photography, which centres on the fact that we are forced to begin with a colour original. As anybody who has worked in a darkroom knows, this is not the best place to start from for fine work in B/W. So my advice might well be, if you wish to really learn your craft in B/W, shoot conventional B/W film and once you have mastered it and darkroom printing, transfer your skills to the digital domain.

However, this is probably not the sort of advice that anyone wants to hear. There are a few advantages to shooting digital colour and then converting to monochrome, but not many. The principal one is that you can apply filtration after the fact, so you can avoid losing speed in the field because of filter factors. This can be a real benefit if you are shooting handheld. Lightroom is one of the few applications that gives you total and very precise control over the spectral range of your image in monochrome conversion, but of course you have to understand how that works in terms of conventional film response and colour filtration in order to make use of it. Plugins and apps like Silver Efex do the work for you if you wish via presets. I’m not going to be pejorative about this, that’s fine too and many great darkroom printers knew very little about the nuts and bolts of silver chemistry either. I processed all my own E6 trannies for years and they always came out well, but I hadn’t the faintest idea of how the chemistry worked. So something like Silver Efex can be a bit like that if you wish, if you only use the presets.

Personally, I transferred as many of my darkroom skills as I could to the digital world, and in my own work I aim mostly to replicate what I always did under the red glow of the safelight. Lightroom is the best tool I have found for the job, so far. After five years (using many different pieces of software), I think I am now getting pretty close to my best silver prints, but it has taken me that long.

John
« Last Edit: June 12, 2011, 09:34:55 AM by John R Smith » Logged

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David Sutton
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« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2011, 04:57:42 AM »
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Kengai I disagree with John on this one. Comparing digital black and white to film is like comparing a fountain pen to an ipad screen.. Each has a use but are worlds apart in practice.
Throwing away your colour information with digital is the last thing you need, as any saturated colour can be rendered light or dark in the monochrome conversion. Grab the sliders in LR and see. Or shift the temperature slider and watch the variation in the shades of grey in the file. It gives us tremendous creative control. Why would you want to discard the creative possibilities inherent in digital?
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David Sutton
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« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2011, 05:20:06 AM »
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Footnote. How the world has changed. I have never actually seen an ipad as I don't move in those circles, and I still use a fountain pen when I want to seriously communicate, since it's the best tool for the job for me. But trying to emulate a pen's idiosyncrasies on a computer screen is just a hiding to nowhere. I feel the same way looking at my darkroom work from forty years ago.
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Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2011, 06:21:24 AM »
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Leslie Alsheimer and Bryan O'Neil Hughes, "Black and White in Photoshop CS4 and Photoshop Lightroom" covers all aspects of black and white transformation using the two key Adobe software products.  I would start with this book and experiment.  As others have said, there is no right or wrong way, just different roads that can lead to the same destination.
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kaelaria
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« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2011, 06:25:37 AM »
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I put on my B&W glasses!
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kengai
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« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2011, 06:33:58 AM »
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thank you for the book.
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John R Smith
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« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2011, 06:58:50 AM »
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Throwing away your colour information with digital is the last thing you need, as any saturated colour can be rendered light or dark in the monochrome conversion. Grab the sliders in LR and see. Or shift the temperature slider and watch the variation in the shades of grey in the file. It gives us tremendous creative control. Why would you want to discard the creative possibilities inherent in digital?

David

That was exactly what I did say was one of the few advantages of starting from a colour original - control over spectral response without having to use filters on the camera. So I was actually agreeing with you. But you have to understand that this freedom does not come without cost, which is another aspect which very few authors mention. Any manipulation of the B/W file which boosts yellows, oranges or reds will result in an increase in colour noise in the output, sometimes a very big increase. It is also possible to get some very unpleasant edge artefacts at the junction between light and dark areas, especially when boosting red and reducing blue. None of these nasties occur when you use a red filter in front of B/W film, and they would not happen if you had (or could afford) a B/W sensor either. This so-called "freedom" which digital photography confers is so much tosh, I am afraid - some B/W work from sixty years ago has never been equalled, and probably never will be.

John
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« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2011, 09:14:33 AM »
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David

...I am afraid - some B/W work from sixty years ago has never been equalled, and probably never will be.

John

To say nothing of the inherent limitations of current ink-jet printers.
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Jim Ascher

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John R Smith
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« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2011, 11:59:34 AM »
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I know that it is all very well pontificating about stuff like this, and without some work to back it up an opinion is just that – an opinion. So I will try to explain myself a little further by using the two example pictures attached below (leaving to one side whether they have any artistic merit or not, and just treating this as a technical exercise).

The wind turbine shot is what I would call a typically strong B/W subject, where colour would add little to the finished print. There is clearly directional lighting, low and quite dramatic, and plenty of contrast with well defined edges to the main compositional elements. This type of subject, converted to B/W, will stand a lot of manipulation, both spectral and luminance adjustment, without falling apart. There is very little in the way of subtle half-shadow areas which are always subject to noise, and the light was strong enough to use a low ISO (100) even handheld. I wanted to dramatize the sky without using a grad filter in LR (otherwise the top turbine blade would have darkened), so I applied a home-brewed orange filter to the whole image. Inevitably, this increased colour noise, but its effect was restricted to very small areas and a setting of about +20 NR pretty much eliminated it.

The oaks in fog was a wholly different matter. This was shot in very low light at ISO 400, which on the ‘Blad is pretty noisy anyhow. The picture is totally dependent on extremely subtle transitions between delicate shades of grey, with no true black or white in the image, and is of inherently low contrast. This photograph will not withstand heavy spectral manipulation without becoming excessively noisy, because most of the tones are in the precise range where noise will be most apparent. So in this case I converted the original to B/W using an absolutely flat grayscale (desaturation would work as well), and made all my subsequent edits using luminance adjustments only. Finally, I removed the small amount of colour noise that was inherent in the image, but left the luminance noise to provide some texture to the final print.

Lightroom actually provides all the tools that you require for very sophisticated editing, and once you have mastered them you can then benefit from a deeper understanding of the principles behind B/W imagery. And that, in the long-term, is very much more rewarding than the one-size-fits-all approach of using someone else’s presets.

John
« Last Edit: June 12, 2011, 02:00:40 PM by John R Smith » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2011, 06:52:26 PM »
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Very good demos, John.
I find both photos very satisfying, and they both make a good case for B&W.

Eric
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« Reply #15 on: June 12, 2011, 07:43:22 PM »
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There is no "best" way. There are various tools that give good but different results, and only you can decide what you like. Two tools that I have found very useful are the B&W conversion in Lightroom and the enhanced B&W printing mode available on some Epson printers.
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Peter
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David Sutton
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« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2011, 02:43:13 AM »
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Any manipulation of the B/W file which boosts yellows, oranges or reds will result in an increase in colour noise in the output, sometimes a very big increase. It is also possible to get some very unpleasant edge artefacts at the junction between light and dark areas, especially when boosting red and reducing blue.

Yes, quite right. But this is an issue with digital in general, and not specifically B&W. We have to pay attention to noise, the histogram, banding and all the other stuff. My point is just not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

To Kengai: check out the B&W Mastery training at
http://jpc.acmeeducational.com/jpc/index.html
It probably covers all you need to know and more.
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« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2011, 11:28:19 AM »
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I do my B&W conversions in Lightroom. The varying controls work very well. I have toyed with using Silver Efex but the cost of the program is a deterent for me (I am a photo-enthusiast/hobbyist).
I use many of the thelightsright.com Lightroom B&W duo and split tone presets. They provide quick and dirty starting points and LR allows you to preview them quickly to get an idea of which ones work best with your image.
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« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2011, 01:16:22 PM »
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Go to George Jardine’s blog and watch this video tutorial, its outstanding!

http://mulita.com/blog/?p=1244
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Andrew Rodney
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galupi20
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« Reply #19 on: June 23, 2011, 09:46:13 PM »
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Just another book that can help you.: Mastering Exposure and the Zone System for Digital Photographers - Lee Varis

Luis
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