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Posts Tagged ‘Conversions’

Luminar – The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

14 Nov

I recently embarked on a project of creating black and white images for an upcoming exhibit at an art gallery. The images have been shot, now the only question that remains is how will I handle the post-processing. In years past I’ve relied heavily on Lightroom and also Nik Silver Efex (yep remember that program). I have found, however, that the black and white conversions and looks created by the Nik Collection are starting to get a little dated.

It was very trendy some years ago to process in Silver Efex, but now that Google is no longer updating the program I find that the presets are not working as well for creating looks that appeal to today’s art buyers.

Luminar - The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

One of the images in the collection. I used Lightroom for some initial adjustments then used Luminar as a plugin to finish off the editing.

So I decided to process my images using Luminar by Macphun. I was already familiar with the program and the easy to use interface, so I thought I would push myself a little further and edit these images looking specifically to process for black and white.

Preset Black and White Workspace

One of the first things to be aware of is that Luminar offers a Black and White specific workspace. By clicking on the workspace tab, you will bring up a variety of tools that will help you to process for black and white conversions.

The workspace includes some filters like Colour filters, Exposure/Contrast, Highlights/Shadows, as well as Clarity/Detail, and a few others. The Curves filter is nicely constructed in that you can adjust RGB as well as the separate colors with just a simple click of the mouse.

Luminar - The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

In this image, you can see that I’ve set the workspace to B&W for black and white conversion.

I was also able to add additional filters to the list and remove others quickly and easily. For the majority of my images, I don’t tend to use textures, so I removed this filter from the workspace. If I were to process another set of images, I might use this filter, but for now, it was easier to remove it. You will notice that once you start adding or removing filters, the workspace becomes a custom setup.

Create your customized Workspace

One of the features that I like about Luminar is the fact that I can create a customized workspace. I am still in the process of tweaking my black and white filters so I can quickly and easily choose a specific workspace with which to start. One that will offer me the filters I need for easy black and white conversions aiming at a variety of different looks. For instance, I can create workspaces for grungy black and white conversions as well as ones that would mimic vintage film looks.

So I added filters to the workspace and made a custom set for processing to my tastes. Filters I removed; Texture Overlay, Grain, Soft Glow, Curves, and Vignette. I added the Advanced Contrast filter. You can also collapse any of the filters you aren’t working at the moment by clicking the little triangle icon just left of the filter name. That will give you more work area and less need to scroll up and down the filters panel.

Adjustment Brushes

Luminar also offers users the opportunity to make specific local adjustments with the Brush and Radial Mask tools. For one specific image, I used the brush to paint in my adjustments to only specific parts of the image. The brush tool creates a mask where you can selectively apply edits to your image.

Read more about this technique here: How to use Filter Masks in Luminar for Powerful Local Adjustments

Here you can see how I am applying the Highlight/Shadow filter only to a select area using the brush and a filter mask.

Workflow

So without further ado, I will take you through the steps I used to edit this image. As you will see, Luminar is a very quick and simple to use program that lets you edit your work in the matter of a few moments.

Step 1 – Presets

I always start by viewing my images in the presets. Who knows, one of them might just work and then my job is done. Luminar has these huge previews of each preset at the bottom of the screen, I find them very useful. This one is called “Bloody Mary”. I like the hint of color it includes but for this upcoming exhibit it won’t fit with the rest of the images so I’ll have to save this effect for later.

Step 2 – Black & White Workspace

Next, I chose the Black and White workspace and then started to adjust the black and white points. I like to make sure that each of my images contains the full range of tones right from pure white to pure black. This is always one of my first steps. I make sure that my histogram touches both the left and right edges. This step is very important as it gives my prints a lot of depth.

Before adjusting the Black and White point sliders. Notice the lack of contrast in the image.

After adjusting the Black and White point sliders. This sets the pure black and pure white in the image and adds contrast.

Step 3 – Color Filters

My next step was to play with the color filters and sliders and see how they would affect the look of the image. Sometimes using a filter makes a specific part of the image pop. For this particular shot, I want to emphasize the bands of light that played across the tree trunk.

To do this click on “Edit” next to the colored circles, and then on the Luminance (brightness) tab. That will allow you to adjust the tones of each color individually. Play with them each to see how they affect your image.

In this image, if I move the red slider all the way to the left, you will see that the tones on the rock get considerably darker. While moving the slider to the left adds light to this part of the shot.

Before adjusting the color sliders.

Red slider to the left darkens any tones in the image that are red.

Red slider to the right lightens red and darkens opposite colors.

Step 4 – Structure

I wanted this shot to be much grittier and defined, so I adjusted the Structure Filter as well. The texture in the bark is important for the effect of the light on the trunk. The structure slider helps emphasize this.

These two shots show the effect Structure has on this image. In this first image, I’ve purposely moved the slider all the way to the left so you can see the effect. The second shot shows the slider moved further to the right. The ridges of the bark become much more defined as I played with this slider.

Structure Slider pulled all the way to the left.

Final toned-down Structure Slider.

Step 5 – Split Toning

For this series of images, I am pairing urban shots with nature shots. All the nature shots, however, were taken somewhere within the city of Toronto. The photos will also contain a slight hint of blue. I love that tone when it’s printed out on my textured fine art paper. I also like to pair this hint of blue with a slightly grey/blue matte when I frame the images for the gallery exhibit. It’s a subtly unique look.

You can see here I’ve exaggerated the saturation to determine if I liked the color. Then, once I had the hue I liked, I toned the colors down to add just a subtle hint of blue to the black and white image. I also adjusted the balance so that the tone of blue will show more in the shadows than in the highlights.

Exaggerated Split Toning Filter to judge the color.

Final Split Toning settings and look.

Step 6 – Final Adjustments

Finally, I added an Advanced Contrast filter. I wanted to give the details within the image some punch and this slider worked beautifully on this image. You can play around with the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows separately. After some adjusting, I shifted the highlight slider further to the right adjusting the effect of the contrast on the tree bark.

Advanced Contrast Filter turned off.

Advanced Contrast filter added.

Conclusion

Well, that’s it, folks. The editing was very quick and simple. The image is complete for now. I always like to leave my work for a few days and then come back to view the image again. A set of fresh eyes always helps in fine-tuning the details.

In closing, Luminar has proved to be a very quick and easy-to-use tool for completing black and white conversions. It offers the same versatility and creative opportunities as other programs and is truly a powerful application.

Before and after comparison. You can use the handy before/after slider to see all the changes you’ve made to your image. Just click the little icon at the top that looks like an open book, and move the slider across your image to see the effects.

Before and after image, side-by-side.

I like the fact that I can use it as both a stand-alone product and a plug-in for Lightroom. The interface is certainly easier to navigate than other programs and I enjoy working in Luminar. That certainly says something as I’m not the type who likes to mess around with post-processing.

Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.

The post Luminar – The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions by Erin Fitzgibbon appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Nikon D7500 gallery update: more photos, Raw conversions

05 Jul

The Nikon D7500 is proving to be an outstanding general-use stills body. As we’re finishing up the full review on the camera, we wanted to share some additional images as well as a handful of Raw conversions (made using beta profiles in Adobe Camera Raw).

You’ll have to wait juuuuust a little longer to find out how the D7500 stacks up against the competition, but if you couldn’t already tell from the photos in the gallery, we’re having a lot of fun shooting with it.

See our Nikon D7500 sample gallery

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Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Sony a6300 gallery updated with Raw conversions

18 Mar

With access to Adobe Camera Raw support for the Sony a6300’s .ARW files, we re-visited our real-world sample-gallery and have added a number of Raw conversions to the existing out-of-camera JPEG files. You can check out our conversions in the updated gallery, or you can download the Raw files and see what you can do with them yourself – you just need to download the latest ACR update.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Great Crates: 10 Beautiful Shipping Container Conversions

10 Jun

[ By Steph in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

converted shipping containers cantilevered office 1

Incredibly strong, durable, lightweight and affordable, shipping containers are integrated into into all sorts of architectural projects, whether they’re still highly visible components or completely disguised. Since the focus is on practicality and price, the resulting structures aren’t typically too pretty. These 10 converted shipping container houses, schools, galleries and train stations prove that in the right hands, reclaimed crates can be beautiful, too.

WFH Shipping Container House

converted shipping container wFH 1

converted shipping containers wfh 4

converted shipping containers wfh 2

You can’t even tell, from inside or out, that this home in Wuxi, China by ArcAgency was made from three shipping containers. It’s set on a steel frame and covered with a sustainable bamboo facade, and even features a solar cell-clad green roof. Producing more energy than it consumes, the modular unit is a prototype for this new way of building. In addition to being made into a single-family home, it could be stacked into multi-story townhouses.

Maison IEDEKIT Quebec Container House
converted shipping containers idekit 1

converted shipping continers idekit 2
Seven shipping containers form the basis of the Maison Idekit in Quebec, which disguises them from the outside but leaves them visible inside. The container shapes, covered in timber, can still be discerned from the house’s silhouette, some jutting out at angles and others stacked in the center. Maison Idekit helps homeowners craft containers into their own custom-designed, low-cost homes.

Container Corner House

converted shipping containers corner tokyo

converted shipping containers corner tokyo 2

converted shipping containers corner tokyo 3

Two shipping containers stacked at an angle take advantage of a tiny sliver of land in urban Tokyo, and can easily be moved as needed. Tomokazu Hayakawa architects split one of the containers in half to form the ground floor gallery spaces, with the second crate functioning as an office. They simply painted the exteriors black, but framed out the interiors as required by Japanese law. The hatch doors still open to let in light and air.

Whitney Studio Gallery + Education Space

converted shipping containers lot ek whitney 3

converted shipping containers lot ek whitney 2

converted shipping containers lot ek whitney

When New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art needed a new gallery and education space, they turned to shipping container experts LOT-EK to craft a temporary low-cost structure that would see them through until the museum moved to a new location in 2015. Six containers stacked two-high are sliced diagonally, the operable windows highlighted in neon yellow. This cut-out detail makes the structure more dynamic, and improves air flow inside.

Rooms Within Rooms at the Adriance House

converted shipping containers adriance house

converted shipping containers adriance house 2

converted shipping containers adriance house 3

Not only do the 12 shipping containers that make up the Adriance House in Maine help hold up the glazed envelope that surrounds them, they also function as individual rooms within a room. Two of the containers are cut open on the ground level to connect the kitchen and living rooms to the common area, while the rest hold bedrooms, bathrooms, offices and lounges. The whole home measures 4,000 square feet and can be opened to the outdoors via a double-height garage door.

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Great Crates 10 Beautiful Shipping Container Conversions

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[ By Steph in Architecture & Houses & Residential. ]

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Raw conversions added to Canon EOS 7D Mark II: Real-world samples (beta)

16 Oct

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is the long-awaited replacement to the 7D, which was launched in 2009. It features a 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor and dual DIGIC 6 image processors. It has a new 65-point, all cross-type autofocus system as well as an updated version of Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. We’ve just been provided with an early build of ACR 8.7 and we’ve taken the opportunity to add seven Raw conversions to our previously-published gallery of real-world samples. Click through to take a look

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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How to do Great Black and White Conversions Using Photoshop

08 Oct

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-1

Some photos that you take you’ll want to convert to black and white. Photoshop has some tools that you can use to convert your photos to black and white and I’ll show you what these are and the best way to do the conversion.

Why you should shoot in color and convert to black and white

If your camera saves photos as jpeg images, even if it can capture in black and white, it’s advisable to avoid this setting and instead shoot in color and convert later. The reason is that when you capture in jpeg and have the camera set to black and white, all the color information is discarded when the image is saved and you can never get it back. So you will only ever have a black and white image. On the other hand if you capture in color you will have the choice to convert the photo to black and white, but you will also have a color image in case you decide it looks better that way.

Black and white conversions in Photoshop

You have a couple of choices when converting to black and white in Photoshop. You can desaturate the image by choosing Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. This removes the color from the image but you have no control over how it is converted.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-2

A better way to convert an image is to use a black and white adjustment layer. So choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black & White and click Ok to create the new adjustment layer.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-3

When the Properties dialog appears you will see sliders for red, yellow, green, cyan, blue and magenta. You can use these to control how the colors in the photo are converted. Drag a color slider to the left to darken areas in the image which are that tone and drag to the right to lighten them.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-4

In some cases you may see little or no change when you drag a slider – this will happen if there is little or none of that color in the image.

The sliders allow you to create a custom black and white conversion for your photo and you can also adjust how similar value colors are converted. In this image the girl’s pink shirt and the green background convert to a similar shade of grey – but adjusting the green slider to the left darkens the background and creates a more pleasing black and white image.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-5

In addition to adjusting the sliders you can also use the targeted adjustment tool by clicking its icon in the Properties panel (circled in red below). You can then click on a specific area of the image and then drag to the left or to the right to adjust the color under the eyedropper. Drag to the left to darken the color, and to the right to lighten it. You should be aware, that this will, of course, adjust every occurrence of that color in the image, not just the area of color underneath your cursor.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-6

As you adjust the sliders take care to avoid dragging adjacent sliders in completely opposite directions. You are adjusting colors which are likely to be found in close proximity to each other in opposite directions – making one color light and the other dark. The risk is that you will create areas of mottled darks and lights in the image which won’t be aesthetically pleasing as in this image below:

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-7

Instead, adjust adjacent sliders so their values are closer to each other for a smoother and more pleasing result as in this next image:

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-8

There are also presets options available from the Properties dialog that you can use as a quick start converting your image to black and white. Click a preset in the list to apply it. If you find one you like you can use it as is, or continue to adjust the sliders to fine tune the result.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-9

Although you can apply this black and white conversion directly to the image using Image > Adjustments > Black and White, I suggest you use the adjustment layer method instead. The reason for this is that, when you use an adjustment layer you can double click the adjustment layer thumbnail to fine tuning the result at any time.

If you apply the adjustment as an adjustment layer you can blend it into the image below by reducing its opacity. Here I reduced the opacity of the black and white adjustment to reveal some of the original color image to give an almost hand tinted look to this image.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-10

You can also, as I will explain below, add multiple black and white adjustment layers and use the built in masks to control how each adjustment layer affects the image.

Tinting a black and white image

The Black and White Adjustment Layer Properties dialog also gives you the option of tinting the black and white image. To do this click the Tint button and click the color selector which allows you to choose a color to tint the image. Choosing a bright color will result in a brighter and more colorful tint and choosing a darker color will give a more subtle tone to the image.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-11

Multiple black and white adjustments

Occasionally you may want to treat two areas of similar color in a photo in different ways. For example you may have an image that has a blue sky as well as other elements which are also blue. If you adjust the image using a single black and white adjustment layer all the blues in the image will be converted to a similar grey value and this may not be the effect that you want.

When you need to adjust two areas of similar color in an image in different ways you can apply two separate black and white adjustment layers. To do this, add the first black and white adjustment layer and use it to adjust the image the way you want it to look for one area of color. In this example I’ve adjusted the top of the image.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-12

Then add a second black and white adjustment layer to the image. At this point you may notice that making changes using the second adjustment layer has no effect on the image at all. This is to be expected – a black and white adjustment layer won’t have any effect when applied over the top of what is basically a black and white image. You can change this behavior by selecting the new adjustment layer and choose Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options. From the Knockout dropdown list select Deep and then click Ok.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-13

Now you can use the new black and white adjustment layer to fine tune the image. In this case I used it to adjust the image so the bottom part looked the way I wanted it.

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-14

To finish the image you can blend the two adjustments using the masks on one or both adjustment layers.

For this example I targeted the mask on the topmost adjustment layer and filled it with a black to white linear gradient using the Gradient tool. I dragged down at an angle across the middle of the image so the gradient would follow the angle of the sign. The result is that the top most black and white adjustment layer no longer has any effect on the topmost part of the image (the mask is black in that area).

Black-and-white-in-photoshop-15

This process has allowed me to convert two areas of the photo, both of which contain a similar blue color to different tones of gray, one light and one dark.

If you prefer to watch a video showing these adjustments see below for the same steps:

This second video shows how to craft custom black and white images in Photoshop:

For tips on using Lightroom for your black and white conversions try these:

  • Tips for Shooting and Processing Better Black and White Photographs
  • How to Convert Photos to Black and White in Lightroom
  • Create Better Black and White Photos Using Local Adjustments in Lightroom 5
  • 3 Tips for Better Black and White Conversion using Lightroom

Do you have any other tips for black and white conversion using Photoshop?

The post How to do Great Black and White Conversions Using Photoshop by Helen Bradley appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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How to do Surreal Digital Infrared Photography Without Expensive Gear or Camera Conversions

17 Jun

Photos made with invisible infrared light, rather than visible light, yield wildly strange and eerie photographs that always have the “WOW Factor.”  For landscapes or scenic imagery, infrared (IR) photography is highly regarded as fine art. But back in the days of film photography, shooting infrared was complicated, expensive and the results were often not great. For those with determination though, that one image that did ‘work” was always worth the trouble.

But now the complexity of capturing infrared photos has changed – digital cameras have made the technique almost foolproof, inexpensive, and a lot of fun! All you’ll need is a tripod, a special infrared filter, and any camera that is sensitive to infrared light. With a few easy steps you’ll be shooting infrared photos in no time at all.

But before I get into the process, it’s not my intention in this article to delve into the physics of infrared light, and all the scientific mumbo jumbo that goes along with understanding WHY infrared light creates amazing images, but rather to give you some simple steps to get you started in this super creative technique.

_DSC1747W

Visible Light Black and White Image

Just know that anything that is alive will reflect a greater amount of infrared light than inanimate objects. Leaves, foliage, and grass, along with skin, reflect the greatest amounts of infrared light, and so will be the whitest objects in your image. Stones, concrete, mountains, water and sky tend to absorb infrared light and so appear as darker objects in your images.  The tonality is very different from that of visible light black and white photography though. Notice how the tones of the leaves, seeds and sky are quite different in the infrared image below.

Digital Infrared Image

Digital Infrared Image

Okay, are you ready to give this a try? Here are the simple steps you need to follow so your images will turn out into hauntingly beautiful, surreal infrared photographs. The first steps deal with equipment and settings, and the last steps are all about how to best capture beautiful infrared light.

Step 1: Test your Camera

Before you go out and buy an infrared filter test your camera to make sure it’s sensitive to infrared light.  Not all digital camera sensors are able to “see” infrared light. In fact the newer the camera, the less sensitive to infrared light it may be. Try this simple test to see if your camera will give you good results.

Testing your camera for infrared sensitivity.

Testing your camera for infrared sensitivity.

Hunt down a TV, VCR or DVD player remote control. Look at the end that points to the TV (or VCR etc), and you’ll see a little bulb or flat back plastic window. This is the transmitter that sends the signal from the remote to your device. That signal usually uses infrared light. You can see that it is invisible light – i.e. when you look at the remote with your eye, you can’t see anything when you press the buttons. But just wait until you do this looking through your camera! You’ll be able to see invisible light – the infrared spectrum that makes such cool photos.

If you have a point & shoot camera look through your LCD viewer while pressing any button on the remote. If you see the bulb light up, your camera can see infrared light.  If you have a DSLR you’ll have to take a photo to see the results, or if you camera has a live view feature, you will be able to see the the results on your LCD as well.

The whiter and brighter the light you see from the remote, the more sensitive your camera is to infrared. If the light is more purple or red your camera may not be a good candidate for shooting infrared photos.

Step 2: Equipment

If your camera passed the sensitivity test, you’ll need two more pieces of equipment before you can shoot infrared photos, a tripod and an infrared filter. The tripod will help you take a sharp shot, as your exposure times will be quite long. The filter will  block most of the visible light from reaching your camera sensor, but will allow the beautiful infrared light to pass through.

When I first started shooting infrared images, I used  a Hoya R72 screw-on infrared filter. B+W, Tiffen and other manufacturers also have equivalent infrared filters.  If you are using a slide in filter system, such as Cokin or Lee, they also make infrared filters to work with their holders. If this is the filter you’ll be using, make sure to slide it into the slot closest to the camera to prevent unwanted visible light from sneaking in. The R72 refers to the amount and type of infrared light that passes through to your sensor and I recommend using this to start. It allows some visible light to pass to the sensor so it will allow you do to all sorts of creative post processing with your images.

Infrared Image with creative post processing.

Infrared Image with creative post-processing

Step 3: Camera settings

Because the infrared filter blocks out most of the visible light, your exposures will be quite long. You’ll have to adjust your camera settings to ensure you get a good exposure, while keeping noise to a minimum.  Set up your camera on your tripod and make these adjustments:

  1. Set your ISO between 200 and 400, keep it as low as you can
  2. Set your Long Exposure noise reduction to ON
  3. Set your camera to shoot in RAW mode
  4. Set your camera to Aperture Priority (Av mode on a Canon), and your aperture to around f/8 for maximum sharpness
  5. If your camera does auto bracketing (refer to your owner’s manual), set your bracketing to +/-1 EV.  Your series should be -1 EV, 0 EV, good exposure, and + 1 EV. You can also bracket manually.

Shooting in RAW will give you a bit more latitude for processing and adjusting.  Bracketing will help you find the sweet spot for exposure at your preferred aperture and ISO.

I’m not going to go deep into the White Balance setting, as this could be an entire article on its own. But for now set your White Balance to the Sunny or Daylight preset.

Step 4: Composition

Just as in regular light photography, composition is a critical component of infrared photography. However there are a few additional considerations to keep foremost in your mind when planning your infrared composition.

A variety of textures make the image more dynamic.

A variety of textures make the image more dynamic.

Infrared photography is similar to black and white photography, in that you are dealing with a limited number of tones. To add more dynamism and energy to your infrared shots, add contrasting elements. By this I mean using dark and light objects in close proximity to each other. But also use smooth and textured objects together. You can mix and match for artistic composition and design.

 COLUMN 1  COLUMN 2
  • light
  • white
  • smooth
  • large patterns
  • light with fine textures
  • light with large textures
  • dark
  • black
  • textured
  • small patterns
  • dark with fine textures
  • dark with large textures

In every infrared shot you make, include at least one element from Column 1 with the corresponding one from Column 2. You can add as many elements as you want, but it’s best to keep your composition simple. You can use light and small patterns, with dark and large patterns and so on. Foliage and clouds will always be a light element in your image; the sky, stones, bark, water  and concrete will be darker. Leaves from a distance are a rough texture, with many small elements appearing rough and textured; while human skin is very smooth.  This should give you a great starting point for infrared compositional considerations.

Step 5: Shooting Infrared

There is only one critical thing to remember when shooting infrared – you must shoot when there is lots of sunshine, and in the summer when there is lots of deciduous foliage. Overcast days won’t give you great results, and because living things reflect the most infrared light, snowy winter days are usually devoid of anything that reflects infrared.  If there are clouds in the sky these can add an element of interest, but don’t make your capture until the sun is out, and shining on your subject.

Find a great place to shoot and adjust the settings on your camera. I like graveyards, parks, and old abandoned buildings. The contrast between the stones, the pathways, the old wood and leaves and grass provides outstanding tonality for infrared images. If you can get a few wisps of cloud in your sky all the better.

Put your camera on your tripod, and compose your image. Place the infrared filter on your camera, and use your autofocus as usual. Yes, it works just fine for infrared photos! Your light meter will work too but be sure to bracket on either end to make sure you have at least one usable exposure. Then click the shutter.  You’ve just made an infrared photograph.

Skin looks like alabaster when shot using infrared light.

Skin looks like alabaster when shot using infrared light

For techniques and ideas for post-processing our infrared images, watch for my article on post processing infrared photos coming soon!

The post How to do Surreal Digital Infrared Photography Without Expensive Gear or Camera Conversions by Alex Morrison appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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8 Reasons to Use Silver Efex Pro 2 for Your Black and White Conversions

13 Jun

Silver Efex Pro 2 review

You can convert colour photos to black and white in Photoshop and Lightroom (or your Raw conversion software of choice). But the last few years have also seen an increase in the number of plug-ins built to do nothing else, other than convert photos to monochrome.

Today I’m going to look at what many people consider to be the best black and white plug-in around – Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2. Rather than provide a comprehensive review of the software, I’m going to look at some of the things you can do with it that you can’t (or would be much more difficult) in Photoshop or Lightroom.

1. Presets

Silver Efex Pro 2 has 38 presets that you can use as starting points for your processing work, including vintage looks as well as modern ones. This places the plug-in ahead of Photoshop, and probably ahead of Lightroom too. You can buy Develop Presets for Lightroom, but it will be difficult to find some that give you as many options as those in Silver Efex Pro 2.

Here’s a sample of some of the presets. The original colour photo is shown top left.

Silver Efex Pro 2 review

2. There are more tools for enhancing texture

Silver Efex Pro 2 review

The full set of Contrast and Structure sliders in Silver Efex Pro 2.

One of the elements that makes black and white photos so effective is texture. You can enhance texture in both Photoshop and Lightroom (the Contrast and Clarity sliders are my favourite tools for this) but Silver Efex Pro 2 takes it several steps further.

The Contrast sliders

Silver Efex Pro 2 has four sliders for adjusting contrast. The Contrast slider is the same as the one in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw. The Amplify Whites and Amplify Blacks sliders let you increase Contrast in the highlights and shadows respectively. There’s also a Soft Contrast slider that increases contrast but in a less aggressive way, almost as if there is an overlay of gaussian blur. This slider is very useful for portraits.

If you get carried away with the Contrast sliders you can lose detail in the highlights and shadows. So, in addition to the four sliders already mentioned, there are two Tonality Protection sliders used to bring back detail in clipped areas.

Silver Efex Pro 2 review

These portraits show the difference between Contrast and Soft Contrast. Soft Contrast is ideal for portraits, while Contrast is better for subjects like architecture and the landscape.

The Structure sliders

Structure slider is similar to Clarity in Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw. But while in those programs the Clarity slider affects all the tones in the selected area, in Silver Efex Pro 2 you can choose to adjust Structure independently in the shadows, midtones and highlights. There is also a Fine Structure slider for increasing mid-tone contrast in areas of fine detail.

Silver Efex Pro 2 review

The above photo shows three close-ups of the same portrait used earlier.

Top: A neutral black and white conversion, with no increase in Clarity.

Middle: This is what happens when you increase Clarity to 100% in Lightroom (note that you wouldn’t normally push it that far for a portrait, I did it here to show you the effect). Clarity is increased uniformly across the frame, affecting the skin tones as well as the hair.

Bottom: Shadows Structure set to 100% in Silver Efex Pro 2. Only the shadows are affected, leaving the midtones and highlights alone. This brought out the detail in the model’s hair and eyes, but left her skin untouched. You would have to use a selection or a mask in Photoshop or the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to achieve the same effect.

3. Control Points make local adjustments easy

Just like in Photoshop and Lightroom you can apply adjustments locally as well as globally, using a system called Control Points.

A Control Point is the centre of a circle within which you can make tonal adjustments. The adjustment is applied to tones similar in brightness and colour to the pixels underneath the Control Point itself. For example, if you place a Control Point over a dark tone, then increase the brightness, only the dark tones within the circle are adjusted. Light tones remain untouched.

Silver Efex Pro 2 review

The yellow and black dot marks the Control Point. Adjustments are made to pixels matching the colour and brightness of the pixels underneath it. There are seven sliders you can adjust: Brightness (Br), Contrast (Co), Structure (St), Amplify Whites (AW), Amplify Blacks (AB), Fine Structure (FS) and Selective Colorization (SC).

It may sound complicated but it only takes a little practice to understand how it works. You can use as many Control Points as you want in an image, and group them together to cover areas that don’t conform easily to a circular shape.

4. Selective colouring is easy

Selective colouring is the technique of converting an image to black and white while leaving part of it in colour. This is easy with Silver Efex Pro 2 as all you have to do is place a Control Point over the area where you want to retain colour.

I used two Control Points in the following example, one on each coloured shutter:

Silver Efex Pro 2 review

5. The History panel is excellent

Silver Efex Pro 2 has the best History panel I’ve seen in any software. Every adjustment you make to your photo is listed.

Silver Efex Pro 2 review

The History panel works together with the Compare view. The yellow tab on the left indicates the photo used for the Before view, and the entry used for the After view is displayed in yellow text. This simple method lets you compare any two entries in the History panel.

6. The Zone System

Silver Efex Pro 2 can show you where the tones in your photo fall within the eleven zones of the Zone System. One useful application of this is that you can use it to see which areas of your photo may block up in print because they are too dark or too light.

This screenshot shows the tones which fall into zone 3. They are indicated by the brown diagonal lines.

Silver Efex Pro 2 review

7. Black and White film emulation

The Film Types panel gives you a choice of 18 different black and white films. When you choose one the plug-in emulates the tonality and grain structure of the selected film. It’s an easy way to get the film look without having to shoot, develop, and scan black and white film.

8. Silver Efex Pro 2 comes bundled with other software

Silver Efex Pro 2 is part of the Nik Collection, which includes seven applications and costs $ 149. That works out to less than $ 25 a plug-in.

Note: If you’re on a tight budget, the standalone version of OnOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 8 represents even better value at $ 79. Click the link to learn more.

Further resources

You can learn more about Silver Efex Pro 2 at these links:

  • Silver Efex Pro 2 official page
  • Silver Efex Pro 2 tutorials
  • Silver Efex Pro 2 videos on YouTube

Your turn

What software do you use for black and white conversions? Do you prefer Photoshop, Lightroom, another Raw conversion program or a plug-in? Let us know in the comments – what would you recommend to other readers?

The post 8 Reasons to Use Silver Efex Pro 2 for Your Black and White Conversions by Andrew S. Gibson appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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Religious Conversions: 15 Houses of Worship Turned Secular

09 Sep

[ By Steph in Architecture & Public & Institutional. ]

Converted Churches Secular Main

Transforming these fifteen churches, monasteries and synagogues into homes, libraries and nightclubs hasn’t put a damper on their sense of reverence and grandeur. Former houses of worship all over the world retain all of their awe-inspiring original architectural elements like vaulted ceilings, arches, altars and stained glass windows while adjusting to needs that are more mundane.

13th Century Church to Modern Library, Maastricht, Holland

Church Converted Library 1

Converted Church Library 2

A thirteenth-century Dominican church in Maastricht, Holland has been transformed into Selexyz Dominicanen, a massive bookstore. The 1,200-square-meter church will all of its elegant arches and vaults has been filled with a modern three-story volume containing row after row of books, to take advantage of the full height of the structure.

St. Jakobus Church to Home by Zecc Architects, The Netherlands

Converted Church Home Living Zecc 1

Converted Church Home Living Zecc 2

A modest, narrow chapel in The Netherlands that had fallen into disuse is now a private home. Like many other churches in the area, St. Jakobus was no longer needed for its intended purpose, so it was used as an antique store and even a meeting place for small concerts over the years. Then Zecc Architects came in, removed part of the mezzanine floor, painted nearly every surface stark white and inserted modular volume that provides enclosed rooms and a loft without compromising the grand feel of the space.

Gothic Monastery to Hotel, Maastricht, Holland

Converted Church Hotel

Travelers can take a different sort of comfort in a 15th century monastery in Maastricht than that for which it was originally built. The Crutched Friars is now the 60-room Kruisheren Hotel. The monastery houses the guest rooms, while the Gothic church contains the reception area, conference rooms, a library, a boutique and a coffee bar.

Ordinary Church Concealing Modern Home, Sydney, Australia

Converted Church Concealing Modern Home 1

Converted Church Concealing Modern Home 2

What appears to be an ordinary church in Sydney, Australia is actually a modern home. You wouldn’t guess from the outside that just within those walls is a light-filled living space with an indoor swimming pool, glazed walls and a marble commercial kitchen.

Anglican Church to Spirito Martini Bar, Brussels, Belgium

Converted CHurch Spirito Martini Bar

The Spirito-Martini is a luxurious hotspot in Brussels with three bars, five different lounges and a private room, all set within a former Anglican church. All of the major architectural elements of the church have been retained, including extravagant chandeliers. The designers outfitted the club in Victorian-style furniture, damask and dark wood.

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Black and White Conversions: An Introduction to Luminosity

06 Jun

A Guest Post by Nick Rains.

Black and white conversion luminosityWarningthe following is quite advanced (even geeky) and I must assume the reader has a working knowledge of channels, levels, curves, blending modes, tools etc as well as how the main color models work (RGB, Lab, HSB).

Much has been written about converting colour to Black and White: we all know that there are a great many different ways to do this, some more effective than others. Differences between the various methods are usually explained in terms of visual appeal or the ability to blend the various colour channels to emulate traditional B+W filters. What has not been mentioned is exactly why different greyscale conversions give different results, and more importantly, the fact that this principle can be used to make more accurate adjustments to colour images.

This last point seems quite contradictory; what has greyscale conversion got to do with colour adjustments? Well, quite a lot really when you remember that all RGB colour images are comprised of three different ‘channels’ of greyscale information, each of which represents the lightness values of each of the three colours and that it’s the relationship between them which give us the illusion of ‘colour’.

If you alter a colour image by, say, using the dodging or burning tools, you are actually altering 3 greyscale channels at the same time and unless the relationship between those 3 channels stays exactly the same, there will be a shift of hue or saturation which is of course not the aim of the adjustment. Many of Photoshop’s tools, used at face value, operate on a composite of all three channels – not an ideal situation.

How we see Luminosity

Photoshop very rarely uses the term Luminosity. It is not Brightness in the Hue, Saturation, Brightness (HSB) colour model. It is not the Lightness channel in Lab mode and it is not the K value when you use the colour picker in Greyscale mode.

Luminosity is the perceived brightness of a colour, not it’s numerical or measured value under the above colour models. Look at this image – 3 patches of full strength RGB. Each has a 100% Brightness and a 100% Saturation, all that differs between them is the Hue. However, I think all would agree that the green is perceptually lighter, or more luminous, than the red which is in turn lighter than the blue. So, whilst the numbers show a 100% Brightness, you see quite different tones.

ColourPatch

Here is the same image converted to B+W using Image > Adjust > Desaturate. All the colour contrast disappears because the Hue (colour) is removed and the new lightness of the greys in the top row is exactly 50% (127) because the Saturation and Brightness are both equal.

ColourPatchDeSat

Here is the image converted another simple way : Image > Mode > Greyscale. This is better because the conversion is a little more like our eye sees colour with an emphasis on the Green. In fact the colour weighting is very close to 60%G 30%R and 10%B where the Green lightness as double that of the Red, much like our eyes see and tipping a nod to the fact that there are double the number of Green sensels on a camera’s Bayer array as compared to Red and Blue. The conversion still looks a little lacking in contrast however, and good B+W images really need good impact or contrast to look their best.

ColourPatchGrayscale

Even the Lightness channel in Lab, shown below, does not really depict the relative tones of the colours as we experience them. It is actually a lot closer to the perceived luminance but is perceptually ‘lighter’ overall than the simple Mode > Greyscale conversion.

ColourPatchLab

The most accurate conversion is via the Channel Mixer using these values taken from the sRGB definitions developed by Hewlett Packard (http://www.w3.org/Graphics/Color/sRGB)

71%G 21%R and 8%B.

ColourPatchChMixAdvanced

This gives a slightly more punchy look and it is a good starting point for converting your images to B+W. The Red looks a little dark to my eye, and the Blue a bit dark, but since there is very little pure colour in nature, this combination works well in the real world.

So why the fuss? Why do we need to know all these different methods?

The point to understand is that when you are removing colour information and having your image rely only on greyscale tones you need to control how those tones relate to one another. Do you want the blue of the sky to become a darker greyscale tone than the green grass? Or vice versa.

As an example, for the Australian flag – which greyscale version looks better?

Australian flag

Australian flag desat

Australian flag ChMix

There is no definitively correct answer – it’s the one which looks best. Personally, I think the one with the darker blue looks best because it maintains the perceived brightness of the blue as well as keeping good contrast between the blue and the red.

You need to take control and make sure the colours in the original capture translate to good meaningful contrast in the B+W version. This is the secret of good B+W conversions – not the precise method, but being aware of the tonal distributions and which greyscale value a colour is converted to relative to the other colours’ subsequent greyscale values.

Just to leave you with an advanced ‘teaser’…

What if you duplicated a colour layer and added a monochrome channel mixer adjustment layer to that new layer? You could then change the new layer’s Blend Mode to Luminosity and use the Channel Mixer to adjust the Brightness and Saturation of the colours in the image without affecting the Hue in any way.

If you try doing this directly with Curves or Levels you’ll get a small Hue shift as you adjust the Brightness and Saturation. If you don’t believe me try setting the Info Tool to HSB instead of RGB and read off colours as you make a direct Curves adjustment. You’ll see all three numbers change, including the Hue.

I’ll discuss this further in a future article.

Portrait 1

Portrait 2

In converting to B+W the green of the jacket and the blue of the cap have darkened whilst the red skin tones have slightly lightened. The face and hands now stand out far better – a good example of a situation where the colours in the original were simply a distraction, adding nothing to the shot, and so were removed.

Nick Rains is a Queensland based photographer who has been shooting professionally since 1983 and has seen first hand many changes in the photographic industry, from manual to auto focus in the late 1980s through to the shift to digital in the past decade or so.

Nick currently shoots feature work for companies like Australian Geographic and Orion Expeditions as well as writing for magazines and blogs around the world. Nick is both a Canon training consultant and a Leica Ambassador, as well as a Master Photographer with the AIPP and a national judge. You can see more of his work at www.nickrains.com or add him to your circles on Google Plus.

For more in-depth photography writing, try Nick’s iPad app “Photique”. It’s a free download.

Post originally from: Digital Photography Tips.

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Black and White Conversions: An Introduction to Luminosity


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