Article by Ben Boswell - www.benboswell.co.uk
When I was asked if I would like to write about black and white portraits I thought I would write about how in black and white it is the tone and contrast that makes things work. But most of you know that already. However, what some of you won’t know is that in the past many photographers working with black and white film routinely used yellow or green filters to give the ‘most natural’ tonal rendition. When you shoot digital you can achieve the same effects in Photoshop.
This picture of my wife is shown here as shot, just a bit of sharpening after I reduced the size.
Many people simply change the image to greyscale or desaturate to make it black and white and if you do, what you get is this: Here I have additionally clipped the Histogram just to improve the lightness, I have done the same for the other black and white pictures too.
If you use the ‘channel mixer’: Image>Adjustments>Channel Mixer you will find a dropdown of preset filters. On this image the first here is Green:
Here is Yellow:
Both are an improvement on the simple desaturation, especially when you look at the freckles. Both of these are preset filters, but the purist Black and white photographers in the past would have used a yellow-green which isn’t on the list. If you look at what the filters do to the channels however it is easy to see what a yellow green would do too and this final image is a combination:
Using filters like this adjusts the way that skin tones are displayed and gives you much more control than simply playing with the contrast. The same can be done with landscapes, try the red for dramatic skies or the green on foliage.