B/W conversions

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by kallisti, Jan 1, 2014.

  1. kallisti, Jan 1, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014

    kallisti macrumors 65816

    kallisti

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #1
    I've been noticing more B/W photos in the POTD thread.

    Wanted to start a discussion with some of my own thoughts and hoping others will chime in.

    All of the following images were converted using Nik Silver Efex Pro2. All of the examples in this initial post are of the same subject: a Power Station in Providence, RI.

    Importance of Light/Composition

    These two shots were taken on different days. Similar framing between the two, but the light was very different.

    The right light makes or breaks a photo. One of the basic rules of photography, but it really can't be stressed enough. I also like the sky better in the second with the clouds. And while there is a gull present on the left side of both, its placement in the second photo is much better. Right place at the right time.

    [​IMG]
    Bad light. The sun was hidden in clouds, making the stacks fairly uniform in tone. Kind of ho-hum.

    [​IMG]
    Better light. The sun was peeking through some clouds varying the tone of the stacks. Not harsh enough to add significant shadow lines to the building, but introduced some variability to the appearance of the stacks.

    Different B/W conversions

    I generally play with 5 different conversions in Silver Efex Pro2. High Structure (harsh and smooth), Full Dynamic Range (harsh and smooth), and the neutral conversion. I will also play with the different color filters (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and no filter).

    All of these settings can have a dramatic impact on the final image. Some are more dramatic than others. Some work well for a given image and not at all for another image.

    The biggest issue I've come to watch out for is the tendency for some filters (when applied to certain images) to make things start looking processed and not natural. In itself this isn't an issue as creatively it can be okay to make an image more dramatic. The biggest thing to watch out for is avoiding artifacts similar to those that can crop up in HDR photography: very easy to start getting haloes around transition points that don't look artistic but just bad. Sometimes really bad.

    There are haloes in both of the following. Modest in the full dynamic range conversion, more pronounced in the high structure conversion.

    [​IMG]
    Full dynamic range. While the haloes are subtle, also note the fairly dramatic breaks in the shadows as you move across each stack. Clear lines rather than gradual transitions.

    [​IMG]
    High structure. Haloes are more obvious as are the shadow transitions as you move across each stack.

    [​IMG]
    Neutral conversion with a yellow filter applied to darken the sky a bit. Minimal haloes, smoothest shadow transition across each stack.

    Final thoughts

    Loving all the B/W photos posted in the POTD thread. Sometimes the conversions seem to introduce artifacts that make them look extremely post-processed.

    Would welcome the feedback of others :)
     
  2. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    Behind the Lens, UK
    #2
    I like the full dynamic range one best. I to use Silver Efex Pro. It's the best B&W conversion software around IMO.
     
  3. Prodo123 macrumors 68020

    Prodo123

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    #3
    I actually preferred the "Bad lighting" shot the most. The smooth sky had a lot of negative space which made the photo balanced. The stacks being a similar dark, dark tone also made the shot; it contrasted very nicely with the sky and provided a good counterweight to the negative space on top. The sky in the "Better light" shot has a lot of clouds which really distract the photo and take away from the negative space. Maybe an ND filter and a longer exposure time to smooth out the clouds would have been a better choice; either way, trying to detail the smokestacks is okay but keep in mind that the background is just as important.

    I mainly prefer a high-grain green film conversion set to Fuji ACROS Neopan 100 on Silver Efex Pro. Occasionally add a green or orange filter as seems fit.
     
  4. acearchie macrumors 68040

    acearchie

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2006
    #4
    My favourite BW conversion is the second with the sun peeping through the clouds.

    I think the shot is great but in my opinion it would really benefit from some lens correction or a tilt-shift lens. I can’t help but feel they are toppling over to the right and back a little!
     
  5. MCAsan macrumors 601

    MCAsan

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2012
    Location:
    Atlanta
    #5
    another approach is color HDR, then either desaturate or use sliver effex. Lots of ways to create B&W.

    Try printing on Moab Slickrock Pearl or Silver.
     
  6. kallisti, Jan 2, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014

    kallisti thread starter macrumors 65816

    kallisti

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #6

    Thanks for the comments. I really appreciate them.

    Should post the original image and then the modified version from which I cropped this:

    [​IMG]
    Color, 35mm lens.

    [​IMG]
    Distortion corrected in Photoshop, cropped, converted to B/W. This was what I was intending to end up with at the time of capture.

    Shot this subject previously, but there were harsh shadows on the building that annoyed me. Significant distortion that I didn't correct. I thought the clouds accentuated some of the lines in the composition.
    [​IMG]

    As I was viewing the latest version, I really noticed the left portion of the image and felt it would look good as a vertical crop. The original was shot with a 35mm lens and I had to point the camera up a bit to capture the tops of the stacks. This introduced some distortion which I attempted to correct in Photoshop.

    I went back and shot the stacks in a vertical orientation with a 50mm lens. That is the one with the sun behind the clouds that gave a uniform tone to the stacks and the building. I appreciate your comments about negative space, but I really prefer the image with the light that shows tonal variation in the stacks and the building. The redo just doesn't do it for me--the uniform tone turns it into a boring blob for me. Possible that's a defect in my artistic sense/taste.

    The crop of the first image I shot is a bit "off" relating to perspective and straight lines--never bothered correcting distortion in Photoshop before. I need more practice with it. The stacks lined up perfectly using the lens correction tool and grids in Photoshop. The tops of the stacks are still skewed however (the left half is slightly larger than the right half on each). I agree that it creates an uncomfortable feeling in the image. I'm new at that level of manipulation in post and still have much to learn.

    Leica doesn't make tilt-shift lenses. I don't photograph this type of subject often enough to warrant purchasing a lens for my Nikons which I don't often use these days anyway. This one subject isn't nearly interesting enough to justify that :) Yet I still keep shooting it....
     
  7. kallisti, Jan 2, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014

    kallisti thread starter macrumors 65816

    kallisti

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #7
    Should probably have used the original landscape image for the examples in this thread to document how artifacts can negatively impact B/W conversions.

    [​IMG]
    Fugi ACROS neopan 100 with green filter. Very neutral version. No halos present.

    [​IMG]
    Neutral conversion with a yellow filter to darken the sky. Subtle halos around the power lines, though the lines themselves are still black.

    [​IMG]
    Full dynamic range. Notice the very obvious halos around the power lines. The sky is "magically" brighter in well demarcated areas around the power lines.

    [​IMG]
    High structure. Again notice the very obvious halos on the power lines. This isn't so much in the areas around the power lines, but the lines themselves are ghosted with white lines which also aren't natural.
     
  8. Prodo123 macrumors 68020

    Prodo123

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    #8
    We have a winner!
    This looks great.
     
  9. swordio777 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2013
    Location:
    Scotland, UK
    #9
    Personally, I like this second-last one the best. I like plenty of contrast in B&W shots & this one retains great shadow detail in the buildings and the water.

    I agree that the sky doesn't look completely natural though. Where I notice it the most is in between the 2nd & 3rd stacks where the sky doesn't darken with a natural gradation.

    You mentioned above that you have photoshop - I've never used Silver Efex Pro, so I don't know how it creates its masks, but you may find that you can create similar results while avoiding the haloing by using Selective Colour adjustment layers in PS.

    Great work - thanks for sharing!
     
  10. acearchie macrumors 68040

    acearchie

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2006
    #10
    I think the wide works very well especially with the power lines pulling the composition over to the right.

    Would it be possible to get straight on to the factory(?) or would you literally have to be walking on water?

    What lens were you shooting with?
     
  11. kallisti thread starter macrumors 65816

    kallisti

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #11
    Not really possible to shoot it head-on as the power lines then get into a bad position. There are also issues with foreground elements that don't make it possible to step back too far and try to get a more level view.

    Both of these from a year ago when I first shot this subject:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There is a way in Nik software (including Silver Efex Pro 2) to selectively apply the filters to different parts of the image. Somewhat similar to creating masks in Photoshop, but a bit more intuitive. Hadn't really played with this before. For most of my images I've just been making global adjustments in either Aperture or Lightroom. Was in NYC this weekend and read a book on using all of the Nik filters while I was on the train. I'm excited about going over many of my old photos and really concentrating on post. High time I learned how to do this better.

    Thanks for all the comments. They helped me to notice a large hole in my knowledge/abilities that I need to work on.
     
  12. kallisti, Jan 8, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2014

    kallisti thread starter macrumors 65816

    kallisti

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2003
    #12
    Really started becoming aware of distortion as I was viewing the images for this thread. I posted above with a distortion correction in PS. Don't think I got it right however.

    Upgraded to LR5 and applied the distortion correction filter to the original image. It's kind of magic. Did a better job than all my futzing around.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Apple fanboy macrumors Core

    Apple fanboy

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    Behind the Lens, UK
    #13
    Yes distortion is much better. I find the LR correction quite good but the DXO viewpoint is amazing. Worth a look if you do lots of architecture.
     

Share This Page