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Welcome to My Parlour Said the Spider

By devlin
This old shop in the Malay Quarter at Cape Town looked to me be interesting and i waited for someone to walk in to add some interest. Hopefully i was able to convey the movement of the guy into the shop with the movement blur.

Tags: Street photography Photo journalism Black and white Portraits and people

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pamelajean Plus
14 1.4k 2160 United Kingdom
29 Mar 2012 11:33PM
The mono looks good, Prabh, and the open door acts as an invitation into the shop. I like the texture on the walls and the patterns on the door. Your exposure and detail are good.
I personally don't like the motion blur on the man, and would have preferred a faster shutter speed with everything in focus. It is already obvious that he is walking towards the shop door, and I don't think the blur is necessary. This is, of course, just my personal preference.
As to the man, I would like to have seen him more to the right, less central. I do think he is necessary to the shot, and am glad you had the patience to wait for a subject to come into your frame.
The sign on the right is very distracting and I think I'd have tried to clone that out. Cropping would be an alternative, also taking some from the top in order to maintain the aspect ratio.
devlin Plus
10 653 39 India
30 Mar 2012 8:22AM
Thanks Pamela, i was a little unsure about the sign too since i felt at a certain level it added some interest, but i think if we were to crop it out from the right it would also take the man off center a little bit. Smile which should serve to make the comp better


Jestertheclown 12 8.3k 253 England
30 Mar 2012 8:56AM
Hi Prabh,
Yep! I'd lose the sign.
The jury's out on the motion blur. I think I could live with or without it.
More importantly, it looks to me, to be just a little oversharpened, although I'm not sure that the effect isn't being caused by the depth of contrast.

paulbroad 13 131 1289 United Kingdom
31 Mar 2012 5:16PM
Prefer no motion blur. To me, the tonal range is compressed. I think your mono conversion could could be better giving a wider tonal range. A full tonal range in mono has a pure white somewhere, a pure black and at least 256 shades of grey between. There are plenty of darker greys but no true black.

DRicherby 11 269 726 United Kingdom
1 Apr 2012 12:18PM
paulbroad wrote:
> A full tonal range in mono has a pure white somewhere, a pure black and at least 256 shades of grey between.

It's hard to get more than black, white and 254 shades of grey in an eight-bit file format. Tongue Seriously, though, if you look at the histogram, you will see that the photograph does have a full range of tones and every possible greyscale value from 0 (pure black) to 255 (pure white) is included.

However, I agree that the black and white conversion is flat. If you crop off the white border and look at the histogram, you see that there are substantial blown-out highlights (much of the grille and some of the white paintwork) and a lesser peak at pure black, though that all occurs inside the shop and I don't think there's any significant loss of shadow detail. However, apart from these two peaks, the histogram is extremely flat. This indicates that there is a very even distribution of tones across the image, which means that there's almost no contrast (what little there is comes from the whites and blacks) and there's no tonal centre (you can't say "this is a bright image" or "this is a dark image" because it's everything in small amounts).

It also seems that you've darkened the roof in the top right corner. I think that was a good idea, because it would be distracting, otherwise, but it wasn't done well and the effect is of somebody having vandalized the roof with a can of mid-grey spray paint. When I need to darken things like that, I find it's usually best to use the magic wand to select the area, feather the selection slightly and then use a curves adjustment to perform the darkening. Since you only want to affect the highlights, add a control point somewhere in the middle to stop the midtones of the feathered area being darkened, which would create a halo. However, if the region you're working on has blown to pure white, this technique won't work, as it will just convert the block of pure white to a block of pure grey, which will look even worse.

Something is wrong with the process you're using to convert to black and white. If you can explain to us what you did, we should be able to help you to do it better. It would be nice to see the original colour image, too, as it may be that the lack of contrast was already there.

devlin Plus
10 653 39 India
1 Apr 2012 2:38PM
Thanks Dave, yes you are right the highlights on the roof were blown and i did attempt to tone them down. I used Silverefex pro to convert this, and used the Full Dynamic preset in there for this one. I usually play around with the sliders for most conversions but for this one used a preset. Have uploaded the original version as V2
DRicherby 11 269 726 United Kingdom
1 Apr 2012 3:41PM
Thanks for posting the original. I actually think it works better in colour because it's not very contrasty and the colours help to make up for that. But I'm a good sport so I've done a black and white version for you. I'm using Paint Shop Pro but the general principles will apply everywhere.

First off, I cropped from the top and right because that solves three of the problems identified above: the blown-out roof, the distracting sign and the central placement of the man. Then, I increased contrast using a curves adjustment. The ordering isn't so important when you're working with the original RAW file but, things are different with 8-bit JPEGs. As a general principle, it's best to do significant manipulations of the image before you discard information so I adjusted the contrast of the 16-million-colour version, rather than the 256-colour greyscale that will result: the greyscale image has much lower colour resolution so editing it with more than just little adjustments is likely to produce bad results, analogous to the way that doing things like rotations on low pixel-resolution images doesn't work well. The purpose of the curves adjustment is to get some tonal separation into the image -- look for areas that need to be different shades of grey in the final image but that are currently quite similar and adjust to darken one and lighten the other. I brightened the image as a whole and also tried to get more separation in the shadows so detail will come out inside the shop. See the first mod for the image before conversion.

Now to convert to black and white. The key thing is to use coloured filters to map the different colours into distinct tones and I assume that Silver Efex lets you do this. Obviously, you can just try each colour in turn to see what works best but I think it's worth thinking about it in advance to guide your choice. Remember that a coloured filter will brighten the colour that matches it and darken the complementary colour. So, for example, a red filter will turn bright red to light grey, yellows, oranges and purples to mid grey and blues, cyans and greens to dark grey. Typical colours of filter are red, green, orange, yellow and blue.

The first thing to bear in mind is that the concrete slab is a dark-ish grey and will stay about the same colour, whatever filter you use. We'd like to get good contrast between the yellow wall and the grey slab and that suggests we need a filter that will let through red and/or green (the colours that make up yellow) so that the wall stays light. It would also be good to get the Coca-Cola logo to stand out well, which means that we want to darken that. This suggests a filter that won't let through a lot of red, which limits our choice to green. Now, will a green filter mess up any other part of the image? I can't see anywhere that it would. And, in fact, it has two significant extra advantages: the remaining part of the distracting sign is green, so will become nearly white and blend in with the white wall; and the lighter tiles inside the shop are a greenish colour so we'll get better contrast there; and the things on the shelves are yellowish so will also be brightened by a green filter. Often, you'll need to compromise somewhat when choosing a filter but, here, green seems perfect. Adjust the strengthe of the filter to your taste. 100% strength means you're only using the green channel of the original; lower strengths increase the amount of the red and blue channels that come in. The main effect in this case seems to be on the darkness of the Coke logo; I went for 60%. Finally, I made a curves adjustment to brighten the metal grille compared to the wall behind it. Mod 2 shows this stage of editing.

The final thing to look at is sharpening. Unsharp mask is usually the best tool and it can be used in two ways. The first is with relatively large radius and relatively low strength. This isn't always necessary but the purpose is to locally increase contrast: again, to pull apart similar tones that appear next to each other, so they stand out better. I used radius 10, strength 20, clipping 0 (always set clipping to 0 unless you have a reason not to) and the result was, again, to make the grille stand out better and also some of the things inside the shop. Then I did some ordinary sharpening: low radius (0.7) and high strength (80), which is just ordinary sharpening to better pick out small details.

The result is my third mod. If the photo were mine, I'd do some work on the shop interior, too, to make it a bit more distinct; here, I'm just trying to go through the general principles so I'll leave that kind of detail work to you. I hope that helps with future black and white conversions. Feel free to ask if something doesn't make sense.

devlin Plus
10 653 39 India
2 Apr 2012 9:10AM
Thanks Dave Smile....I had an idea as to the filters but your explanation clarifies a lot



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