What Makes a Black & White Image


Black and White Photography: Learning Grayscale Conversion


Lesson Info

What Makes a Black & White Image

What we're going to look at is we're going to look at what makes a black and white image we fell in love with a black and white image my adventure to guess it each and every one of you or the vast majority of you that's not speaking absolute um I absolutely think that people are speaking absolute um you saw photograph and it grabbed you write it took you it took your breath away and you said I want to express myself that way that's what I want to do and I would venture a guess that that image was a black and white image now let's look at why black and white is important when do you see in black and white when do we as creatures of the forest see in black and white when it's dark that's when there's not enough light for our cones to be able to register color so we see things in black and white there are creatures that live in that force that see better at night than we do so when we're seeing things in black and white or in a grey scale we are on a reptilian brain level at our most vuln...

erable which is why the black and white image grabs us I think this is a thought that conversation I would stevie galina that when we're looking at it in full color we're looking at something we're not supposed to be looking at so we have this thing with it where it's like if I'm looking at if I'm seeing this way I'm supposed to be vulnerable but I'm not phone of what I am but I'm not but I am but I'm not anything that's one of the reasons why it grabs you think the other reason why grabs if you're into interior decorating is that gray goes with everything so it's a lot easier to put a black only picture upon a woman it's but a color picture um but let's take a look let's get a working definition of what a black and white image it is so let's go to my working definition of a black and white image first off we're talking about digital photography correct for this discussion and that means that we're going to most likely print it on a printer like this absent now if that's indeed the case we're going to print it with ink and we're in a digital or rgb world black and white literally means black ink on white paper now it is I think, a better way to conceptualize it that we're making a chromatic grayscale like pan chromatic film all color film chromatic grayscale is a grey scale that will be made up of equal values of red, green and blue so let's come up with a definition of what a black and white or chromatic grayscale images it will have paper white so far with me it will have black of ink. It will have middle gray one twenty eight gray and it will have a grey scale ramp in between. Do we agree? So if I refer to it that way we're all on the same page. Perfect. Well, we further agree that all of those colors are different or that those colors are different that the reds of the reds, greens of the greens and blues of the blues, yellows, yellows, science science right. So we have red, green, blue, yellow, cyan, magenta. All right, what we fell in love with was film photography, analog silver photography that is most likely what grabbed you. The print that you fell in love with is most likely made with metallic substances using film pant dramatic film printed on ortho chromatic paper, which means that it wasn't sensitive to certain frequencies of light. So you have a film that was capable of recording color even though it rendered it in a grey scale and you have paper that was sensitive to different variations of the intensity of colored lights. So color mattered. One of the great issues I find in teaching digital photography and having a research. My book was a lot of the misconception of what constitutes a black and white conversion and what is really important now how many y knows? I mean how many wine drinkers do it do I have in here? All right bottle of wine is eighty percent water ten to twelve percent alcohol five to seven percent tannic acid malic acid chart rates sugars bug parchment stuff crap in two to three percent diffused aromatic gas it is the two to three percent diffused aromatic gas that gives the wine one hundred percent of its flavor. Now I can get to chromatic grayscale or grayscale really quick the key is how effective can I be to get the maximum amount of tonal structure and the maximum amount of image structure and the maximum amount of control over the image? The discussion that we're going to have and we're just going to use photo shop we're not going to use any third party plug ins I'm just going to do the discussion of this theory with something that you already rent which is photos photos up now film had something called a total reproduction curves anybody familiar with that term? Okay total reproduction curve was the way in which the film recorded the collision between red, green and blue. So the first thing in film photography first versus digital photography is that in film photography black and white was never an after thought. It was the only thought you put black and white film in the camera so you made a decision to do what photograph of black and white images that's what it was going to be in digital frequently what happens is uh it's not working and color they tickle to cut her out you could black and white call it art it's not an afterthought it is the on ly thought I have yet to meet an image that has not informed me at the moment that it took me that it was going to be a chromatic grayscale image. Why is that would be the question? The reason why we want to that that occurs is because when you're looking at a color image of black and white image calls to you the gesture is so strong in the image that the color gets in the way the photographer j mays l if you have ever have an opportunity to hear that man speak or take a class with him, you should do it. Um I'm blessed to have known him for years and that he has been a mentor of mine to me. Um said that the third three key elements to photograph light gesture in color because I can't leave well enough alone there are four key elements like jester color in time but let's just talk about maysles light gesture in color, light and color obvious but it is gesture that is the most important and it is gesture that is the most telling and it's a gesture over everything and when a black and white image calls to you what it is is that the gesture of the image that story that it is telling is so strong that the color gets in the way of telling that story that's how you know now what I would invite you to consider and just think about this is stop taking pictures boy did I just get a bunch of blank stares be taken by your pictures don't go looking for the picture let the picture take you the minute that the picture rips you through the lens you're going to have a higher success rate of pictures that floor you and b you'll probably take more black and white pictures too because the gesture is so strong that it takes you and if you get into the habit of just allowing the picture to take you what will occur is a conversation of what should it black and white beer chromatic race go beyond what shouldn't will be moved now let's take a look at simply doing what everybody has done when they make a chromatic grayscale image for the very first time is well it's black and white that means I got to get rid of the color right right ok now film is log rhythmic which means that it is non linear human perception is log rhythmic which also means that your perception is non linear digital is linear therefore it is non log rhythmic what does that mean? Simply this if I put sugar in a cup of coffee it will taste sweet right? If I put two packets of sugar into a cup of coffee in human perception it will not case twice a sweet it will taste sweeter in a linear world two packets of sugar would make it twice as sweet film was log rhythmic and it mimicked human perception that was the way it was designed so let's simply do this let's remove all of the color does this meet my definition a black white, a middle gray and a grayscale rampant between how many people say yes I have a black a white, a middle gray and a great scram scale ramp all the way in between but something evil just happened, didn't it something truly evil which is? I lost two thirds of my data in one point of density that I lost the two to three percent diffused aromatic gas that gave my little chart all of its flavor so you don't want to do that right? Yes you do it's predictable I can predict what's going to happen so let's take a look bear with me here take you a little way out of the way to bring you back home this is what film looked like this is team acts one hundred this is hp five plus my favorite film this is f p four. Do you see that all of these air different? This is agatha pan atomic x probably the greatest someone the world for landscape and t max four hundred t max four hundred looks different than t max one hundred pan atomic x looks different, then team acts we picked specific films based on the way in which they recorded the collision between red, green and blue. Now, when you put black and white film into a film cameron, you look through the viewfinder didn't trip you out that the picture was in color. So the first rule of doing a grey scale conversion is that you have to make the absolute most perfect color image that you can possibly make, that the picture has to be utterly perfect to stand alone as a color image, and then you will remove the distraction of the color to get the abstraction of the gesture that is important. First second, I have to think of a polite way to say this it would be ill advised to do chromatic grayscale conversions in a raw processor. The reason for this is that it is not at that point of the work flow that it is appropriate to convert the image in a raw processor thie approach to converting an image that I'm going to show you cannot be done in any raw processor that exists, you can do chromatic grayscale conversions and raw processors don't get me wrong, but you can't do this particular way of doing it now. The reason why I suggest that you don't do that is that there are many, many more things and making the image looking pretty and color that have to occur before you zap it into chromatic grayscale there's, all sorts of retouching that needs to occur there's, all sorts of smoothing that needs to happen there, maybe multiple images that need to be added. So those things have to occur in photo shop, photo shopped for fine art black and white conversion, in my humble opinion, is the only software environment that you should be working in to do it correctly. Can you do something in a row process assure you need to get something out quick, it's, all a matter of application. But if what you want to do is make something that takes people's breaths away, the best software is the more powerful one, which is photoshopped.

Class Description

High quality black and white images require careful handling – learn the best way to work on yours in  Black and White Photography: Learning Grayscale Conversion with Vincent Versace

When you convert your digital image from color to black and white, you destroy ⅔ of the data in the file. In this class, Vincent will explore the complete conversion process and show you how to protect what remains. You’ll learn how to preserve your image’s contrast, control the individual color channels, manage the hue and saturation layers, and how to print. 

Black and White Photography: Learning Grayscale Conversion with Vincent Versace will help you ensure that every black and white image you work on looks its absolute best.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015



This is exactly what I was looking for! I've not been totally happy with my B&W conversions and was looking for a way to improve. This class will send me down the right path. Love Vincent and think he's a fantastic teacher. I bought his book too...