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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

B&W Transformation

Go from a weak color photograph to strong, dynamic black-and-white by taking advantage of HDR technology along the way

This Article Features Photo Zoom
Example 2: HDR Toning
You say you'd love to try this technique, but don't have multiple exposures from which to create an HDR composite—not a problem. I'll show you how the same effect can be achieved using HDR toning in Photoshop using a single color image.

I've selected a landscape scene taken along Glacier National Park's Highline Trail, one of my favorite hikes. Although the subject matter is terrific, the image itself leaves something to be desired. Midday light is harsh and rather contrasty—not so great for a color image, but a terrific candidate for black-and-white conversion.

Open the image in Photoshop. From the main Menu bar, choose Image > Adjustments > HDR Toning. The HDR Toning panel will appear; it's analogous to the Merge to HDR Pro panel from Example 1.

Figure 4. Original color image (left); a color image with a Black & White Adjustment Layer added (center); and an HDR toned color image with a Black & White Adjustment Layer added (right).
Again, as in Example 1, I chose Surrealistic from the presets. If there are highlight areas that now appear blown out in the Preview panel (in this case, clouds and white flowers), reduce the amount of the Strength slider, under Edge Glow, and/or the Detail slider, in Tone and Detail, until detail begins to reappear. For this image, I reduced Strength from 4.0 to around 2.5, and Detail from 300% to about 110%—again, these aren't hard-and-fast recommendations and will vary from image to image. The important thing is that detail returns to white blown-out objects or areas—use what looks pleasing to you.

After the HDR toning is complete, add a Black & White Adjustment Layer just as was done in Example 1. Adjust individual color sliders, or use them in combination with the TAT to achieve the desired result. Figure 4 shows a comparison between the original color image, the color image to which a Black & White Adjustment Layer has been added, and a third that received HDR toning prior to adding the Black & White Adjustment Layer. As in Example 1, the HDR-toned image has much greater visual impact than a simple straight black-and-white conversion.

Experiment, And Explore The Possibilities
The techniques outlined here illustrate the visual impact that can be achieved through the use of HDR compositing or HDR toning of a single image as part of the black-and-white conversion process. Obviously, the same effects can be achieved with intensive dodging and burning, and/or detailed masking techniques, but with a much more time-consuming and labor-intensive effort. Since no two images will be alike, and each individual photographer will have his or her own preferences for how the final image is to be rendered, some trial and error will be necessary to determine which HDR presets or adjustments are best suited for the task at hand. Once you get the hang of things, it will become second nature to create vibrant black-and-white images with a minimal amount of time and effort. And, of course, nothing prohibits you from applying any further adjustments for improving your image even more to better meet your particular needs or creative objectives.

Although I'm using Photoshop's HDR Pro in my examples, there's no reason why you can't use other software to create the HDR composite image file before converting to black-and-white.

To see more of Rick Sheremeta's work or learn about his workshops, visit www.alpenglowproductions.com.


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