Fine Art Black and White Tips
One thing that I really do wanna show you also, is making compelling black and white photographs. Now this is one area that I do need to eat crow for dinner because I've said many times, even on the Creative Live set that black and white, there's no place for it in Adobe Camera or Lightroom. Said that. The reason why is because black and white in Adobe Camera or on Lightroom in the past was horrible. It was, just being honest. What it would do is it would just, it would grayscale your image and it would give you one set of sliders to adjust those colors and that was your HSL adjustments to go either lighter or darker in color. But now with the new profiles that they've put in here and the way they've built this new black and white process it's uncanny okay. So check this out. When we click black and white on here, you know a lot of times, just to give you a little bit of background on black and white we say we want a black and white photograph. Go through some of your friends Facebook ...
pictures and see what black and white looks like. If it's someone who doesn't know how to process black and white it's gray and gray and gray. It's not black and white. It's gray and gray and gray. It's kinda like a movie. In a movie you've got the stars of the show. Let's say it's a, a romantic comedy, a romcom. Okay, in a romantic comedy you're got two stars of the show. You've got the typical male and female who are madly in love with each other but don't know it yet until the very end of the movie and oh look at that we got together. That's black and white. They want to be together. They need gray value in between in order to make their relationship better but what you don't need in a movie is a ton of actors who have no story. That's what traditional black and white processing is. Gray, gray, gray, gray, gray, gray, gray with no stars. So we need the stars of the show to come into this image and we do that by pushing and pulling those colors in terms of tone. The reason why black and white processing is much better now in Adobe Camera or Lightroom than it was in the past is because I think they realized that. My traditional method of doing black and white in the past was to do a gradient map on top in Photoshop and then underneath put a huge saturation adjustment layer because that would allow me to adjust the hue, saturation and luminance of all the colors underneath a black and white. Boom, amazing control but they've brought that in here and I'm gonna show you how. So, this was in Moab and sometimes you know these little structures down here are just some of the rock structures that are all over that national park. But sometimes the image can be all about the sky. You know, with this photograph, if these clouds weren't here and this was just a whole blue sky it wouldn't be quite as a dramatic photograph but when this cloud came through and was just like, "Hey, I'm telling you to look here." I mean it was almost like picture perfect heaven for a really wide angle shot. So I wanna emphasize that, I wanna emphasize this like, this (imitates explosion) type feeling of these clouds coming in and telling you what to look at. So I'm gonna emphasize that by over-emphasizing the contrast in the image. Boosting the highlights, dropping those shadows. Increasing the whites 'cause if we look at the histogram, what the histogram tells us is that, "Hey Blake, your white is starting here "at maybe 200." Well I need that 200 to be white. So what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna take this white point and you're gonna watch. It's gonna take everything that was at the 200 range and start making it pure white. If I press alter option I can see that. I'm even not blowing that out. That is data that wanted to have more stuff in it. So there we go, okay. Now we make our darks a little bit darker. Here's the really cool part that I like now. In the past if you would come over here to the, the HSL adjustment, it wasn't quite as intuitive, there's some gremlins that are running around in this software now that when you make a movement, you're like, oh oh it looks like crap, nope it looks good. Ah, you got me. So when you move this down you can kind of see it operating where it's doing this algorithm where it sees what you're doing and then it's like, oh wait, you wanted this to look good, not like crap, check this out and then it just kind of just reshapes everything. It's really kind of crazy. So one of the things that you can do is if you want those Ansel Adams-esque style black and white photographs. A lot of times his blue skies would go to these really dark blacks and that was handled in two different ways. It was handled specifically what he did with his, the stuff that he would put in front of his lenses and also with the way that he would control that exposure when he was in the darkroom with those really deep skies. How we can do it is we just go into black and white, we go to the blue slider and we drop those blues down and look at that, we start to get those really thick, dark black skies. We're introducing the stars to the show now. We no longer have a gray, gray, gray medley of horrible actors. We're starting now, to see black and white show up to the scene. And we've got a nice amount of gray value in between that's really starting to bring that conversation along for them. The reds, look at the reds. The reds are gonna be in the peaks, inside here so I want you to bring you in here so I'm gonna highlight those reds a little bit more. The oranges exist down there. If I bring that down, pretty much make that black, I don't wanna do that but you see the content, now I'm really brightening up all the oranges there. The yellows are gonna be in the foreground area, I kinda wanna brighten that up a little bit. Greens are looking good. Cyans, ah they're looking alright. So now if I hop on over, back over to the basic settings if I need more blue there, watch what happens. If I just take the temperature and move this over, more blue starts to become present, so more of the image starts to get darker because this slider over here controlled how dark I wanted those blues to get, see that? I wouldn't necessarily tell you to do that but the idea is that you can if we bring this down a little bit, get that slider back to where it was. The other really cool part about this is that when we start to incorporate things like local adjustments and we go into maybe our adjustment brush and we add a deeper blue to this. Maybe a little bit more exposure to this. And I use my mask, and I just start painting over here like a madman. I know that I have the luminance slider down here and go to luminance. And I can say you know what? Don't affect anything that was, that oh yeah, don't affect anything that was that you know, lighter tones. Only affect the dark areas of that background and we can use the smoothness to dictate how far we want that to go. Turn that mask off. Now we've got a rich, deep, dark, black sky back there that we can still resurrect the highlights from there and the lights. Got down the shadows. Even bring up some of there, there we go. Nice good conversation happening there. Here's the before. Here's the after. A bit darker, oop, gotta click on it, make it a little bit darker, it's looking good right there, kinda like that. The radial filter, if I'd have bring in a radial filter right here, I could bring up the highlights a little bit. Pop this radial filter right down here to really exaggerate that feeling of where I want you to look. Maybe bring up that exposure a little bit down there. Make the shadows a little bit deeper. But again, I'm not, now that we have the ability to do the luminosity I'm asking in Adobe Camera Raw, I'm not gonna leave it that way, I'm not gonna leave it with just this (blows raspberry) type thing. I'm gonna come in here to my luminance values I'm gonna make the dark areas protected from this splash of color. It's kinda like that spotlight I was telling you about. It's the idea that now we have this little light that we can move around. Anything that's light, look at that. Anything that's light is gonna get lighter but all those dark areas are still protected because we put that luminance range masking in there, that luminosity masking built right into that radial filter. And that's something that I'd be pretty proud of at the end of the day. So we go from our before, actually you know what, I'm gonna make a snapshot. We'll call this BRBW, that stands for Blake Rudis Black and White. And we're gonna go back to the beginning, we're gonna go to reset camera all defaults and if I were to do just a traditional, what some people do, that's to de-saturate the image, that's typically what you see, as a black and white photograph. Versus something like that, look at the drama, the mood, the feeling, what you want them to feel, through that black and white photograph. Why are Ansel Adams photographs so darn powerful and prolific? Because they make you feel something when you look at it. You feel the dark, the dark black skies mixing in with those, the high contrast from the clouds and it evokes feeling, it has to. This, that just makes me not wanna really go there. It's like, okay dude, great picture of clouds. That's like whoa dude, the difference. They're completely different. So what I want you to gather from this whole fine art, landscape discussion is not necessarily the, the know how of the tools moreso than how do you make someone feel through those tools? You know, I can show you all day long through all the different courses that I have on here on Creative Live, through the color theory stuff from luminosity masking to Blend If to even the whole boot camp of every tool you need to know about in Photoshop but does that convey the artistic mood that you need to get into your image. Not necessarily. This is where we can talk about things on a different level. We can talk about things on that mood level. How to make you feel what I felt, how to make you smell what I smell, how to make you taste what I taste when I was on those locations. And you've got to put these things into it. It's the build up of all these tools that create that feeling and that emotion. A lotta times we just tend to just say, "Oh I like the curves so I'm just gonna stick to the curve." Well yeah I like the curve and I could probably do a lot of color grading with the curve but there's the gradient map, these all those other tools that are just more powerful to get me from point A to point B. So, I don't necessarily want you for this one, to focus too much on how I did what I did but why I did what I did. And why I did what I did was to make you feel what I felt. And one of the big kickers there is that dodging and burning and sculpting that light and making the viewer see what you want them to see through those highlights.
Any final thoughts for people just getting into this stuff? Just ground level beginners.
Well I mean if you're looking at this and you haven't developed a style yet, again, that style will be developed not through the how you do it but the why you do it. So if you're still in the how mode, do how mode all day long but get to a point where you know one tool really well, then another tool really well, then another tool really well and then you'll start to see where all of them start to just kind of come together and fade together and then from there start developing your style. What makes you tick? What makes your images your images? You can look at any of your favorite photographers that are practicing in this day and age and you can see something in those images that when you look it, you go yep that's a Blake Rudis. Why is that? It's because of that mood that I'm putting through there with those tools. So don't necessarily get wrapped up with the convoluted nature of Photoshop. Take things one piece at a time and start developing a style from those things and really, a lot of this comes from just the awareness to know that this is an emotive process. 'Cause some people can say, oh I just like post-processing images. Okay, then you're just not gonna go anywhere with it. I'm sorry, I hate to tell you that. It's not gonna get you to the point that you wanna be. It's not gonna get you to the artist that you wanna be unless you're passionate about, unless you eat sleep and breathe the curves adjustment layer. That's my life you know, that's what I like to do. Not everyone's gonna be like that and sure, there's a purpose and there's a place for everything, I'm not putting anybody down that does you know, like event photography, that's awesome. But I know for a fact that there's something inside you that is passionate about that thing that you do and you can still convey that through your event photography. You can still convey that through your portrait photography. Just how you shape that light, what you deliver to the client or what you deliver to the viewer.