Finalizing your Black and Whites
The conversion isn't where it ends. The way you finalize a picture really
makes your photo stand out. It makes it unique. Look at it this way: anybody can look at my tutorial and convert an image into black and white; it really isn't that hard, and it doesn't require too much creativity. However
, finalizing is when you get to bring your own personal touches in and truly make your photograph unique and special to you. If you haven't noticed already, finalizing photographs means a lot to me and it's possibly the most rewarding aspect of photography..
But it's not without it's difficulties. This is where the technical aspects of photography end and the art begins.
So you're going to start out with your newly converted black and white photo. In this case, gigante has been nice enough to lend me a shot of his. I'll walk you step-by-step through what I do, but please note that the techniques that I use will not
work with every photograph -- I'm simply showcasing their uses, and you have to make the judgment call on whether to use them or not.
Here we go:
When I look at this picture, I see that it's a little soft around the edges. I want some of the texture in the ramp, his shirt, and the ambient areas to pop. For that, I'll go about using the Unsharp Mask filter. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask:
After that, this window will pop up:
Play around with the Amount and the Radius sliders. If you notice, using a small Amount and a large Radius will blow your highlights a bit:
On the other hand, using a large amount with a small Radius will halo the objects in your picture and bring out all the imperfections in your image:
So usually what I do is I use a very small radius with an Amount that doesn't cause any haloing or noticeably increase grain in the image:
Good, now that we're all sharpened up, let's figure out how to bring some attention to the rider himself. For this, we're going to use the Dodge (lightening) and Burn (darkening) tools. If you notice on your tool palette, there's the Burn tool button.
If you left click and hold on that button, you'll see a flyout menu with the Dodge and Sponge tool also included.
Now what I'm going to do is I'm going to set the diameter of the Burn tool to suit my specific purposes right now. Click the arrow that I have circled in red and change the diameter accordingly. Notice how big my Burn tool is in the corner of the picture.
Now you'll also notice these neat little drop-down menus next to the diameter control:
The first one on the left controls the range of the burn. If you set it to Shadows, only the dark areas of the image will be darkened. If you set it to Midtones, the grays will be darkened. If you set it to Highlights, only the highlights will be darkened. The Exposure menu controls how quickly it burns. THE KEY TO DODGING AND BURNING IS GOING SLOW, USING A LOW EXPOSURE, AND WORKING SMALL
. I can't say that enough. If you set the Exposure setting too high, your burn job will look really
noticeable and amateurish. My recommendation is keep it between 1% and 10%. I'm going to use 3%.
I'll start out by burning the lower right corner. Darkening the outer parts of the image will draw focus into the center -- right where we want it. I'll start by setting the Range to Shadows and getting the shadows as dark as I want them to be:
Next, I'll set the range to Midtones and Highlights to darken the rest.
It looks choppy in that picture, but what I ended up doing is erasing some steps and smoothing everything out for the rest of the image:
So now that that's done, we should probably get to work on the skateboarder himself. Bust out the Dodge tool now, set it to Highlights, and between 1%-10% Exposure (I'm using 5%). Notice the parts of the image I'm dodging. I'm doing this to increase contrast across the subject. The shoelaces popped out as being especially gray, and I really wanted them to be white.
And after dodging and burning our subject, varying the Range function to utilize the tool in specific areas, this is what I came out with.
Notice how I dodged one side of his face, but burned the other to add contrast in the image. I also burned the wrinkles in his shirt set at the Shadow range to emphasize them. Work slow...
...and after all the hard work, it pays off.