It is never black & white

Inspired by Aperture 64’s  blogpost I decided to part company with my default B&W conversion process today. Normally I go straight to Silver Efex Pro without passing go and pausing only to pay US$200 to NIK.

However here I was exploring the black arts of channel splitting, calculations and, after a visit to my Kelby book, gradient mapping. I won’t steal Aperture 64’s thunder as he is going to post more on this subject next week and it would be saucery rather than sorcery to jump the queue. Besides which I haven’t really got beyond understanding that these processes are possible and the nuances and refinements lie far ahead.

Nevertheless I did have 3 cracks at an image using a) calculations, b) channel splitting and c) gradient mapping. But I’m going to leave the order for you to mull over until the bottom of the post. Assuming that is I remember to post the answer. So, which is which?




If anybody tells me they are the same I shall send them to the headmaster immediately. Or possibly the matron. She bears a fair resemblance to Hattie Jacques and packs a punch like Sid James.

Now then, I confess that my favourite is the last. After I had done the first one, that was my favourite. Out of one. After I had done the second one that was my favourite. Out of two. And so on. So I suspect if I did version four that would almost certainly become the table topper. What I like most of course is just the sheer scope of what is possible and the fun of getting there. And of course each of the images is better than the colour original.

Now the answer to this week’s class test is b, a, c. You may mark your own paper but no cheating please. If you have a preference for any of the images I am keen to hear (and why).

Thank you.

11 thoughts on “It is never black & white

  1. It’s great to see my post has helped your work flow. I really like your second image such nice contrast in the skin tones as well as the clothes and the background.

      • Thanks for sharing the link.

        I have been thinking about setting up a FB account for the blog but it may take a few weeks to get it sorted as the New Semester has just started and i am feeling a bit over run with my commitments.

  2. My preference in these examples is A. Nice tonal range, neutral tone. B is my least favourite, details lost in the blacks, and his skin tone appears overly dark. I like C except the toning where it appears you added a copper tone. Of course I am no expert and usually run my life on gut feeling!

    • Strangely enough your gut feel has not let you down. Image C didn’t exactly have a copper tone applied but what it has is a reduction in opacity – very, very small, maybe 4 or 5%, but it allows the original colour to creep back in. The dominant colour in the original is purple and this rendered the image with a slight cast that did not appeal to me. I was merely experimenting to see where the threshold was between ‘pure’ B&W and the faintest hint of the underlying colour. Well spotted!

      • Your preference for a neutral B&W is interesting to me. I often use toning to add an intangible feel to a photo. On occasion it is a copper tone, while other photos need a coffee tone. Again, these decision on how to pp the B&W is a gut feeling. You did comment on my band photos, one toned copper, the other cyan and your preference was not copper. Somtimes it’s interesting to delve into these preferences, and figure not wether we like this or that, but why we do. Thanks for the follow up response Andrew!

      • Hi Barry. I am not against toning but in this instance I was aiming for a comparison between the three images so pushing it beyond a few %age points seemed inappropriate. I do use sepia and coffee tints but they need to be suited to the subject. I am off to Cambodia later this month and that may give me scope to experiment more with tones and tints.

  3. “c” looks like the middle ground between “a” and “b” – so I like it best, too. Difficult to resist colour with these festivals, though. But I suppose that’s the challenge of B&W

I'd be delighted to hear what you think

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