Black and white photography made easy: tips for pro-quality results from start to finish
Finessing with the Levels, Curves and Dodge and Burn tools
In our final part in this series we’ll look at how you can use Photoshop effects like Levels, Curves and the Dodge and Burn tools to fine tune your black and white photo editing process.
Master Photoshop Levels and Curves
While the individual colour adjustments will give you control over the final tones of your black-and-white photos,
they aren’t the only way that you can control them in your final image.
Once you have converted your images, you can also use either Levels or Curves Adjustment Layers to fine-tune the contrast and tones in your black and white photography. Curves Adjustment Layers aren’t available in Elements, so you’ll have to use Levels.
This adjustment allows you to make more subtle changes to your images than Levels, as you can lighten or darken specific parts of the histogram, rather than the three fixed points available in Levels.
You can click any point along the diagonal line in the adjustment window, and drag it down to darken these tones, or up to lighten them. You can also click on a point along this line to lock it in position.
Because the range of adjustments using Curves is almost unlimited, it can be difficult to use at first. You’ll find it’s much easier to start off by using the preset adjustments available in the drop-down menu within the adjustment window.
These presets offer a range of options for the most common adjustments used, such as ‘S’ curves to increase the contrast, and lightening or darkening the image.
One of the most common adjustments you’ll need to make to your black-and-white images is to increase the contrast. While the preset options are useful, they often don’t give the exact effect that you need for your images. In these situations you can still use one of the preset options as a starting point, then simply drag the curve to suit your own shot.
To increase the contrast in an image, select the Medium Contrast option from the drop-down menu. This will apply a subtle ‘S’ curve. To darken the shadows, click and drag the point towards the bottom left of the curve further down. To lighten the highlights, you simply click and drag the point towards the top of the curve higher.
Localised changes in tone, density and contrast have been used almost since the birth of photography to add impact to black-and-white shots.
But unlike the days of the master printer producing prints individually, you
can now apply selective adjustments quickly and easily to your images.
The easiest way to do this on large areas of an image, such as the sky, is to use a Layer Mask on a Levels or Curves Adjustment Layer. You simply make your adjustment to suit the area, ignoring any effect on the rest of the image.
Then, using a black brush set to around 25% opacity, paint onto the Layer Mask that corresponds to the area that you want to leave unaffected by the adjustment.
PAGE 1: How to compose for black and white photography
PAGE 2: Good subjects for black and white photography
PAGE 3: Try using in-camera filters for your black and white photography
PAGE 4: Shooting images you can easily convert to black and white
PAGE 5: Black and white conversion in Photoshop Elements
PAGE 6: Black and white conversion in Photoshop CS
PAGE 7: Master Photoshop Levels and Curves
PAGE 8: Using the Levels sliders
PAGE 9: Master the Dodge and Burn tools
PAGE 10: Toning techniques for black and white photography
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on Monday, November 5th, 2012 at 2:00 am under B&W, Photography Tips.
Tags: black and white photography, photo ideas, Shoot Like A Pro