Simon Plant has been interested in photography since 1989, consequently travelling the world and photographing some of the biggest celebrities. In 2005, he changed tack and started concentrating on landscapes and cars and now, he uploads tutorial videos to his site, for either free download or for purchase.
Black & White is a medium that can be as bland as it can be awe inspiring. In this video, Simon shows us how to make sure it's more of the latter.
ProPhotoinsights Creating Monochrome video tutorial: Download
There are three segments saved as zip files to download and use in Quicktime. The download times are indicated next to the links which is convenient. There's also a link to download Quicktime Player if you don't have it.
Because I was given an ETA, I decided to leave it until the last thing and downloaded it overnight in case it slowed my computer too much. In the morning, the second video had not downloaded properly, looking as though it had stuck. Pressing pause and then play again soon sorted the problem and it only took a few minutes to finish off.
ProPhotoinsights Creating Monochrome video tutorial: Videos
A rousing score starts each video and some text, with the location and date, gives us a brief background. The videos are introduced by Simon which seems to be “off the cuff” instead of scripted as there are some 'umms' and 'erms' as well as a little bit of looking off camera. But it's not badly presented and a decent amount of information is given.
The first location is a disused WW2 railway and pillbox in South Somerset and it's obvious that Simon has done some research into the location and history of the structure. We get a quick panoramic view of the area before the screen blanks out. In true Frasier style, a title comes up before each scene to let us know we're learning about the camera settings or the post-production. From here, the audio is in a studio as there's no background noise but this does mean less distractions.
In the first video, the shoot is glossed over as Simon simply covers what settings he used to get the shot he wanted. As the video is all about post-production, it doesn't need to be covered but it's done in the third video and I think it's a nice touch to see how the professionals work.
Production is done on a Mac and other than the correct file path in Photoshop, all commands are given without PC alternatives. For the image of the pillbox in video one, Simon decides to make the image infrared and starts to make the changes. The narrative is good, although a little fast, and if you were wanting to copy this as you go along, you'd have to keep pausing it to keep up. A magnifyer is used for particular changes that are made which is good as it shows you exactly where the mouse is going.
The before shot of the Merry Maidens was just a snap taken on holiday.
Editing with the right skill and tools changes the scene into a dramatic piece.
What I like about the presentation is that the images haven't been pre-made. He's doing the changes for the first time because occasionally he'll make mistakes such as over adjusting a colour or adding too much contrast. It means we see a good display of his skill and experience as the workflow is spot on although lengthy.
Despite all the changes being made and the information given at the beginning of the post-production part, the final image of the pillbox isn't infrared. I find it a little unusual that he'd change tack half way through a tutorial but the final image is still good and he did use the technique in the image, so if you're curious about shooting infrared, then the tutorial will still help you out.
The second video is probably my favourite as the changes made are so substantial that the final picture looks very different from the original which was, in Simon's own words, a snap. It's bland and flat but is changed into a dramatic, broody image with two skies overlaid and an incredible amount of contrast.
The layers are all displayed on the screen so you can see what is being done as it happens.
In the final video, we look at portraits and how to add detail, contrast and character to a face. Simon does it effortlessly and through all the three films, I get the feeling that he knew exactly what he was going to do to the image in Photoshop while taking it.
Camera equipment isn't covered at all apart from accessories such as pocket wizards or a couple of Manfrotto accessories used in the third video. I think this is important because you're not convinced into thinking that one particular brand or format is perfect, Simon allows you to make up your own mind.
ProPhotoinsights Creating Monochrome video tutorial: Verdict
Photoshop isn't my biggest strength so I managed to get some great insights in post production from the videos. Simon's instruction is clear, concise but a little too fast. It's also a bit rough around the edges with the occasional cough or sniffle and fading in and out of scenes too early or late. A professional film company would do a good job at cleaning up this area but that would inevitably push the price of the tutorials up.
The finished images from editing are astounding and there's no denying Simon's skill. He knows what he's talking about and I think if you followed these instructions, you could make some stunning photographs.
Registration is free, for the website, and there's plenty of free videos as well as chargeable ones. The Black & White Masterclass I watched is only £10 and for that I think it's really good value. The filming and editing just needs to be tweaked and it'll be a scorcher of a video.
ProPhotoinsights Creating Monochrome video tutorial: Plus points
Good information given
Lovely final images
Value for money
ProPhotoinsights Creating Monochrome video tutorial: Minus points
Filming is a bit rough
Unscripted audio leads to “ums” and “ahs”
Instruction is a little fast
QUALITY OF ADVICE
PhotoInsights Creating Monochrome Video Tutorial costs £9.99 and is available as a direct download from PhotoInsights.net.
ProPhotoinsights Creating Monochrome video tutorial