Words & Pictures Peter Bargh ePHOTOzine
A colour photograph can look good when converted to black & white but you often need to make a few small corrections to produce a better level of contrast. Let's take a look at what you can do with this example of a wedding car.
1 First convert the photograph to black & white. There are two options here, the most obvious being to convert the photo from RGB colour to Grayscale and this could be done by going to Image>Mode>Grayscale, but then all the colour information will be removed and you wouldn't be able to add a color tone such as sepia when you've finished adjusting contrast. So we will simply remove the colour by going to Enhance>Color>Remove Colour.
|This discards all colour information but the file is still RGB and can be toned easily. But look at the lack of contrast and the lack of detail in the background shrubs.|
|2 The usual fix for contrast adjustment is Enhance>AutoLevels or Enhance>Auto Contrast, but that doesn't help much in this example. The light areas of the car are brighter, but nothing much happens to the background so an alternative approach is necessary. |
|3 Another auto option is the fill flash mode-Enhance>Fillflash. This is designed for all those photos that are taken in bright daylight where the subject is in shade and needs some light - hence the name fill-flash. In this example it's worth trying to see if it will lift the shadow areas, but unfortunately it doesn't work well enough. |
|4 The brightness and contrast control Enhance>Brightness>Contrast helps but tends to destroy detail in the highlights when you increase brightness of the shadow areas. It's a basic fix for beginners but should be avoided if you want better and more controllable results. |
|5 No on to the more advanced features but ones with potentially better control of theresults. Enhance>Brightness>Contrast>Levels is a control found on the more expensive Photoshop and is great for sorting out contrast. When you call up this mode you'll see an options box with a black graph. This has peaks where pixels of the same brightness exist. In our image the peaks are at the left (shadow areas) there's also one in the middle mid tones) and one at the right (highlights). As we want to increase the mid tones (bushes in the background and parts of the car) we will drag the middle slider to the left which lightens the mid value. The slider on the right can also be dragged slightly to the left and doing this lightens the highlights making the picture look better but it could be even better. |
|6 Elements, like Jasc's Paint Shop Pro and the more expensive Photoshop, offers a layers option with blend modes which allows you to duplicate layers and blend them with different settings to control how pixels in the top layer reacts with the ones below. By creating an exact duplicate layer you can make darker pixels go lighter and lighter pixels go darker or many other combinations of interaction. You can also apply a filter effect to the top layer and reduce the opacity of this to develop the image's tonal structure. Here I applied the equalize filter (Image>Adjust>Equalize) which if done on the single layer would have made the image look even more contrasty, but when blended with the base layer using the Screen blend mode at 55% has improved contrast dramatically. |
7 A final touch is a olive/sepia tone created using the Enhance>Colour>Hue/Saturation slider with colorize selected.