Enhance texture and tone in your landscapes
Want to make your mono landscapes more dramatic? Try replicating the look of coloured filters in Adobe Camera Raw.
When shooting with black-and-white film, photographers can bring out the various tones and textures in a landscape by placing different coloured filters over the lens: a red filter, for example, will darken blues, resulting in dramatic dark skies that make white clouds really stand out. If you’re using Photoshop Elements you can mimic this filter effect using the standard editor’s Convert to Black and White command. This enables you to lighten or darken greyscale tones in specific areas using a series of colour sliders. The downside is that you have to sacrifice a photo’s high quality RAW status by leaving the Adobe Camera Raw editor. However, if you’re using Photoshop CS3 or above you can use the RAW editor’s HSL/Greyscale tab to target and tweak specific tones in your monochrome conversion. Here’s how it’s done…
STEP BY STEP – Use colour to boost mono tones
1. Adjust the contrast
Open your image into ACR. If your image is flat and dull it will show a bunched-up graph in the middle of the histogram revealing that the shot has little contrast. If the graph doesn’t reach to the far right, it is indicating weak highlights, and the shadows aren’t as dark as they could be. Increase the Exposure and Blacks by dragging the sliders. The histogram should then show a wider range of tones.
2. Convert to greyscale
You could convert to mono by dragging the Saturation slider to -100, but there’s a more effective way. Click on the HSL/Greyscale tab and tick Convert to Greyscale. Photoshop alters the Greyscale sliders to create a black-and-white conversion. Tick Default to set the sliders to 0 and click on the Shadow Clipping Warning icon at the top-left of the histogram.
3. Darken the sky
Darkening the blue sky can really make the white clouds stand out. Drag the Blues slider to the left. If you go too far, blue clipping warning patches will appear. The sky also runs the risk of becoming grainier as it darkens. Try a value of -60, which helps to darken the sky but keeps noise and clipping artefacts to a minimum. Other areas of the image remain unaltered.
4. Reduce the noise
By making the sky darker you’ve exaggerated some of the grain that was created by the high ISO (400) setting. To soften this grain, first click on the Detail tab. To see and edit the grain effectively zoom in to view the shot at 100%. Now drag the Luminance slider to 54 and Colour to 26 to reduce the noise artefacts.
5. Lighten the sand
Return to the HSL/Greyscale tab and untick the Preview option to see a colour version of the shot. The sand is a light yellow. Tick the Preview box again to return to the mono version. To make the sand contrast more effectively with the mountains, drag the Yellows slider right to about +50 to brighten it up a little.
6. Darken the background terrain
Darken the background terrain slightly by dragging the Oranges slider left to -30. By using the colour sliders to lighten or darken features, you can enhance the shapes and textures in the shot as distinct areas, instead of losing them in a wash of greyscale tones.
7. Tweak the tones
To enhance the shot’s contrast even more and emphasise the shape and form of different elements in the scene, click on the Tone Curve tab. To start with, set Highlights to +7 and Darks to -33 and tweak to get desired effect.
8. Add a colour wash
To give your mono conversion a hint of a tint, simply click on the Split Toning tab and drag the Hue sliders in Highlights and Shadows to 237. Set the Saturation sliders to about 8. This subtle wash of cool colour enhances the landscape’s cold feel and makes the mono conversion look even more dramatic.
Coloured filters placed over a lens lighten or darken the tone of specific colours in a scene. An orange filter lightens reds – enabling photographers to reduce the contrast between freckles and skin, for example. These filter effects can be replicated digitally in Photoshop.
A black-and-white conversion has a range of greyscale tones that go from pure black (with a value of 0) through to pure white (with a value of 255).
If you use a fast ISO of 400 or more, you may see increased grain (or noise) in your shots. Darkening specific tones can exaggerate grain, creating unwanted noise artefacts (see step 4).
Adobe Camera Raw’s Split Toning tab can be used to create dramatic duotones if you push the Saturation sliders to the far right. However, here we want to give the mono shot a hint of blue to make the greyscale conversion look a little more interesting (see step 8). Colour also helps to enhance the mood – a monochrome wedding photograph could look more romantic and timeless if given a hint of sepia, for example.
This entry was posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 at 8:00 am and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.