Tuesday, July 22, 2008

More on Black and White Digital Prints

I don't do very much black and white digital printing. One of the reasons is that it is much more difficult than making color digital prints. Tim Grey, who has lots of great solutions to the complexities of digital photography, recently posted the following in his free email service Digital Darkroom Questions. I've haven't tried this but it looks pretty good to me and I hope to try it.

Digital Darkroom Questions (DDQ)
July 22, 2008
by Tim Grey

Books: www.timgrey.com/books/index.htm
Blog: www.timgrey.com/blog


Gradient Map, how do you apply this technique? I was at a workshop not long ago and watched the instructor apply this technique to enhance the B&W image she was working on. This particular step seemed to give the image the tonal qualities that I desire to make a beautiful B&W print. Unfortunately, this step went to quickly for me to take notes on. I'm coming from a darkroom background and find that I'm still not really satisfied with my digital B&W prints. I still can't get the whites I desire and this step, Gradient Map, seemed to afford this printer the benefits that I desire. Or, maybe you have a better tip for tonal qualities in achieving a truly beautiful B&W print. I should note that I primarily photograph people, and therefore am looking for the skin tones that I miss from working in the darkroom.


The Gradient Map adjustment literally maps tonal values in your image to specific color (or tonal) values based on the gradient you define. To get started, simply click the Create Adjustment Layer (the half black and half white circle button at the bottom of the Layers palette) and choose Gradient Map. This will bring up the Gradient Map dialog box. You can choose one of the pre-defined gradients from the dropdown. For example, by choosing the black to white gradient you'll produce a black and white version of your image. While there are some interesting results you can achieve with the preset gradients, it is more interesting to create your own custom gradient. To get started, click the gradient preview area for the dropdown in the Gradient Map dialog box. This will bring up the Gradient Editor, where you can define a custom gradient for the color (or tonal) values to be mapped to the tonal values in the image.

To customize the gradient, click in an empty space directly below the gradient preview in the Gradient Editor dialog box. Then double-click on the "handle" for the new point you've added to bring up the Select Stop Color dialog box. Select the color (or neutral shade of gray) to assign to the point you selected on the gradient, and click OK. You can then drag the handle left or right to refine which tonal value in the image should be associated with that color. The colors you define will be assigned to your image based on tonality, resulting in a map of colors based on tonal values (and thus the name of this adjustment).

The Gradient Map adjustment allows you to create customized grayscale interpretations of your images, but also enables you to create very interesting creative interpretations by blending a series of colors to the various tonal values within the image.



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