Well, first of all, I have to say a huge thank you to absolutely everyone who sent kind thoughts, emails, comments, or prayers regarding my bout with Lyme disease. You have no idea how much your kind words meant to me and I am SO happy to report that I am 100% cured! I have absolutely no residual side effects and all of the neurological issues have gone away. Completely. Unfortunately, I’ve been crazy busy this week prepping for Hurricane Irene’s arrival….and as things stand right now, we have no idea if we are going to evacuate or not. We live in southern Yorktown, Virginia in the “Hampton Roads” region, near Norfolk/Virginia Beach/etc. so needless to say, things are starting to get a little interesting around here….
In the calm before the storm, I thought I’d share a quick little collection of black & whites that are near & dear to me. My first photography love has always been a good black & white. In fact, the majority of the images I have in my house are all black & whites….with a few colorful family shots here & there. I absolutely love black & white photography….it is classic, cool, moody & a little mysterious all at the same time. When my son was born, I decided to create a collection of black & white images of him to put in a book some day as a gift when he departs the nest. That will be a while, I know, but I’m hoping to have some shots he’ll want to keep forever. Below are a handful of my favorites, along with tips for capturing dramatic B&W’s, and how I like to process them after-capture.
1. The two of us when I was learning photography. Still learning. This image has some exposure issues, but I love it anyhow. It’s a reflection, and the blown out/under-exposed parts actually add a lot to it overall. Love it.
2.) This was a sweet one. A few Christmases ago, he wanted to set up this nativity scene with an old box, and I let him. I used either my 24-70 or my 16-35 on this one, can’t remember, but again, I love it. I did my “under-expose” trick that I’ll describe later because I knew it would be converted to black & white.
3.) Another one I love. Used the “under-expose” trick below, because I knew this was going to be black & white too. Absolutely love how the reflection from the table lights up the silhouette of his face just a tad.
4.) This was one of those “throw it into AV and see what you get” series of shots. Although there are some definite exposure issues, again, I can’t tell you how much I love this series of images. It’s also one of the sets that people always comment on when they visit our home. Printed, it’s not quite as contrasty looking. I love it – especially because it is of my two favorite people in the world.
6.) This is my honey waiting for his carpool ride to pick him up for preschool. It was raining that day. He was prepared.
7.) Another all time fave. Had this one professionally framed. He’s just standing in some windows. I post processed using the below methods described, and adding a little lens blur.
Okay, here are my tips for how I shoot black & white…these are not standard photography guidelines – just the way I like to do it.
I like backlighting and silhouettes – in fact, I totally love them. In order to get the look seen in pics 3, 6 and 8 above, I typically meter for my subject (in these cases, it was the back or side of my son’s head) then actually under-expose the subject only by just a tad (I’m usually photographing what you may think of as “grey space” at this point – in other words, my in-camera readings are right at “0”) while opening up my F-stop as much as possible without completely blowing out the image. I’m also using the lowest ISO possible at this point to avoid too much graininess. A little grain is no biggie, but too much will totally kill the mood of your black & white.
Did that make sense? If not, go back and read it again and/or post questions in the comments section below. I’ll do my best to answer them for you.
Alrighty, now on to the post-processing part. I hate to disappoint you all ( I’ve gotten so many requests for post-processing black & whites) but my photoshopping method – 90% of the time – consists of a very, very basic Gradient Map conversion, then mild tweaking of brightness/contrast & selective coloring. On occasion I’ll go hog-wild and play with levels a bit, but that’s typically just in the event that an image doesn’t have enough contrast to begin with.
This is my basic formula: I add a gradient map via the adjustment layers icon in the layers palette, then I convert it to black and white. If you have no idea what that means, these handy screenshots should help. They are in Photoshop CS5.
See how that works? Easy Peasy. Now, here is the basic tweaking that I do.
1.) Make a copy, then lower the brightness just a tad and increase the contrast just a tad on the copy. If you don’t know where to find your brightness/contrast just go to Image/Adjustments/Brightness Contrast. I typically lower the brightness to anywhere from a -3 to a -7 and increase the contrast just a little itty bitty bit (maybe to a +2 or +3 or so) and then that’s it.
2.) I am fussy about skin tones (which btw, all skin smoothing, wrinkle removal, etc. should be done before you convert to B&W, not after….it’s just easier that way) so I will typically use my eraser on the layer I just performed the brightness/contrast adjustments on, and remove the brightness/contrast from the skin – face, hands, etc. If you need to go back & burn your shadows just a tad over the eyes you can.
3.) If I’m really in a perfectionista type of mood, I’ll whiten the skin a tad by going to Image/Adjustments/Selective Color & then I will select the blacks, only from the pull down menu. I’ll bump those up just a tad – maybe to a plus one. (I’m doing this on a layer so I can erase/remove the effect over skin if needed) and then (In another layer) I’ll do the same thing, only select the neutrals instead of the blacks, and remove the blacks from them just a bit. Then I’ll do a reverse layer mask on that layer, and paint it back in just a tad over the skin….this will suck the grey out of your skin, and give you really bright, white skin without blowing out your highlights in the rest of your image.
4.) I pop my eyes just a tad by using the methods described here, and then I run my Multiply Action to darken all around the edges. I think you can see the difference just in the images below. The first is a basic BW conversion (using the Gradient Map method outlined above) and the second is with my tweaks added.
Alright friends, well – that concludes today’s post. Keep all of us “East-Coasters” in your thoughts and prayers as we make the best decisions we can regarding evacuation, supplies, etc. during the coming days. I have no idea what the next 72 hours holds for our family, so if I don’t return emails right away, you’re going to have to give me a break. As always, I’ll return your emails as soon as possible. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments or questions here. There is a good possibility I’ll be spending a lot of time in a hotel room this weekend – a bit further inland – with (hopefully!) an internet connection and no Irene. I’ll need something to do.
Until next time…XOXO – PB