Here's a simple technique for producing striking black and white images in Lightroom. Make a virtual copy of your color image, convert to black and white using the one-click setting under the Basic tab of the Develop module, and ... here's the magic ... play with the color temperature sliders, both TEMP and TINT. These sliders change the underlying color mix of your image and, in so doing, the contribution the three color channels make to the black and white version.
Some adjustments will darken or lighten the overall image, and you can then play with the exposure and contrast sliders. Finally, of course, you can use the B&W tab to further tune the filtration. But if you've moved one of the color temperature sliders radically, you may find that moving the black and white mix has little effect. (If your color temperature is far to the warm side, moving the blue slider will have little effect, since there's so little of the blue channel in the image.)
This may or may not work on a particular image, but remember that Lightroom adjustments are non-destructive, so you can always move back through your history tab to find a state that worked ... or start from scratch. The following image of rapids along the Mackenzie River in Oregon is one that used this technique, plus a small boost of exposure in the foliage at upper left using the adjustment brush.
I maintain a site for the free exchange of Photoshop actions. Action Central has been in existence since 2003. It is an outgrowth of discussions on the retouching forum of Digital Photography Review and what was, until I started Action Central, an ad hoc exchange of Photoshop sequences various individuals had developed for their own use conducted via email.
There are now just under 200 free actions on the site, covering everything from special effects to frames to black and white conversion.
The latest actions include a set that allows you to create a mirrored border for gallery wrap, written by David Hickey, two that I prepared that produce, respectively, a fog effect and that allow you to desaturate an image while adding drama through a black and white layer, and a sharpening action developed by David Dollevoet that gives you the benefits of high pass sharpening without the unwieldy artifacts. That means it can be used on portraits, something one would never want to do with regular high pass sharpening. Here's a before and after example of what David calls "Sharpening for a Natural Look."
There are links to these most recent actions in the right hand box on the Action Central home page, and the navigation takes you to the other 195 actions that are arranged by category. Have fun!
In an earlier post, I reviewed a neat little product called GPS4cam that allows you to use your smart phone to geotag your photos. But what about all the images you've taken in the past? Lightroom 4 makes it easy, if you know where they were taken.
In Lightroom, you simply select a group of photos to which you want to append geotag data. Then open the Map module and use the search bar to find the location they came from. Your search term can be as loose as "Paris, France" or, as in the example below, as precise as "Ste. Ettienne du Mont, Paris." (I am using this method to try to get down to the neighborhood level for as many of our Paris pictures as possible.)
Once Google Maps has found the location, use the slider just below the map (to the right of the word "Hybrid" in the above example) to zoom in and navigate to the precise point you want to tag. Once you're satisfied, simply select the images you want to geotag in the strip, unless you have already done so, as then drag and drop them onto the spot you want to tag. Your photos will be added to the map.
How do you conveniently locate candidate photos? If you've placed photos in collections by location, as I have, it's easy work. If you placed locations in your keywords, use them to filter your results, or filter by location. Of course, that depends on your having entered this information into your metadata.
If not, you might browse "All Photographs" in your collection sequentially, finding photos taken at the same location and adding them a quick collection by pressing B on your keyboard. (Or, better yet, add them to a permanent collection. Then call up the map module, place your photos where they belong, and move on.
In any collection, you can restrict your view of what is NOT yet geotragged by selecting "Untagged" from the Location Filter at the top of the Map Module screen.
There's also a way to find photos anywhere in your catalog that are not geotagged. Set up a Smart Collection called "Not in Map" using the following criteria (whether you match "any" or "all" from the pull-down menu makes no difference in this case, unless you add other criteria):
This Smart Collection will dynamically contain all your images that lack geotag data. You might use it to select sequences of photos shot in the same location and manually add them to your map using the above method. When you return to this Smart Collection, you will find they are no longer there, telling you you've been successful.
I shoot with a Canon 5d and 7d and use Photoshop, Lightroom, and a variety of plug-ins for my post-processing. Most would consider me an all-digital photographer. I also own a film scanner, however, and have been scanning and restoring old black and white negatives and color transparencies.
A few days ago, something possessed me. I pulled my Canon EOS Elan7E from the shelf, installed new batteries, loaded a roll of Kodak Professional Elite Chrome Extra Color 100 Film, fitted a macro lens, and headed for the International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon. The results? Decide for yourself. Fifteen keepers out of 36. Not bad. Here's one of my favorites.
I scanned all the slides on my now venerable CanonScan FS-4000US using Ed Hamrick's Vuescan, which I have profiled using an IT-8 target. As a result, most of these images needed no curves adjustment. After taking them into Photoshop, I cropped the few on which it was necessary and used the spot healing brush to remove dust. (There was a surprising amount of it despite the fact that I took the slides individually from the box as soon as I returned from the lab.) I applied varying amounts of high pass sharpening. That was it.
I imported them into Lightroom to organize them, and applied only standard output sharpening to get them onto my website. Nothing more. The results in most cases match and in some cases surpass those I took with my Canon 7d during the same session.
Where will I take this? I think that color slide film will return to being a part of how I shoot. Nothing beats the convenience and low incremental cost of an all-digital workflow. Scanning your own slides is a lot of work, though I can skip that step by having the lab give me a high resolution disk. But when I'm working on subjects with a lot of color saturation, I will take the 7E along and use it whenever I think it will bring a more pleasing tone. Kodak has discontinued this emulsion, but I've purchased a few rolls while it's still to be found and there's still Velvia available.
Finally, what I enjoyed about this process was the discipline it imposed. When using my film camera I simply could not afford to shoot six shots of every flower. I had to compose carefully, think about the light, and get the right focus. That's the way we used to work, remember? An all-digital workflow has allowed too many of us to get sloppy. I see it all the time in others and, I hate to admit, in my own work.
Because I must be more thoughtful while using film, I believe the reimposed discipline will improve all my photography.
Sometimes the most engaging images are not the ones you're about to take, but old ones for which you find new uses. In television, this is called "repurposing content." Here's an example:
The image to the left was shot on the Oregon Coast in July of 2003. (Yes, that's the way the coast often looks in summer.) I posted it a few years ago, got a few nice comments, and moved on.
Nine years later, I stumbled across it in Lightroom 4 and decided more could be done with it. I first went into the develop module, updated the process to 2012, and applied camera calibration. The original was shot on the Canon G2 (remember that?), and there was, shall we say, a bit of keystoning. Even after I'd applied calibration, I had to do a few more adjustments to keep the trees from excessive convergence.
Then the fun began. I took the image into Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and tried several presets. Neutral was blah, high contrast made it look as though a fire had just ravaged the forest, but high structure was just about right. It employs the green channel to turn the foliage and moss on the trees white — a perfect contrast to the dark trunks.
I added a control point to provide a localized exposure adjustment to the foreground, saved the result, and posted it to Facebook. In a few hours, I had more likes and comments than on any image I've ever posted there.
What's lying dormant (perhaps gathering moss) in your catalog?