The purpose of this assignment was to explore the tools and techniques discussed in Section five of The Art of Black and White Photography.
Two images were called for: one image needed to be a portrait of a woman or child, processed to produce a soft, bright portrait, minimizing any skin blemishes or other imperfections. The second images needed to be of a man or older person processed to emphasize and accentuate the subject’s facial details.
In both images we also needed to make a range of further adjustments: adjusting the brightness and contrast of different areas of the image, selectively brightening the subject’s eyes, and (possibly) blending one or more black and white conversion technique.
For this assignment, I deliberately picked an image of a woman that had a number of imperfections. My subject has freckles and my clumsy lighting caused a specular reflection on the forehead. I thought this would be a good challenge for this assignment.
I first tried a LAB conversion, but the overall image was a bit too contrasty for a beauty portrait. A B&W Adjustment didn’t work at all, but I did like the effects of the Channel Mixer conversion — although the image needed more punch. So I used the LAB B&W conversion for the lips, eyes and hair and the Channel Mixer conversion for the rest of the image.
To reduce the visibility of the freckles, I used a Curves Adjustment to lighten the face. I also added three additional Curves Adjustments to lighten the hair, eyes and forehead (the latter adjustment was to reduce the specular reflection from the umbrella softbox).
The subject’s skin still shows a number of imperfections (such as the freckles on her face and the neck). But to remove the freckles from her neck using this technique I would need to brighten her neck so much that it would make the image unbalanced. A bit of me wants to get in there with the Spot Healing Brush but I’m still impressed how this technique improves the image without using more traditional retouching tools.
I took this photograph explicitly for this assignment — it’s my amply wrinkled father-in-law.
Neither the Black & White adjustment nor the LAB conversion worked that well on this image. I found the Channel Mixer the best place to start.
My creative aim was to get the viewer to pogo-stick between the subject’s face and the face on the pot. So all of the Curves adjustment layers were added towards this end.
I added a Curves adjustment layer to lighten the face, and another one to increase the contrast in the face. I then added a Curves adjustment layer to create more contrast on the pot.
I then brightened the eyes with another Curves adjustment layer.
After sharpening the image with a High Pass filter, I added a vignette. I used a mask to erase most of the vignette from his hair because I didn’t want to take attention away from his head.
Overall, I’m pleased with this conversion, but I’m bothered by the dark area around his left eye. Does this add to the mood of the shot or is it a distraction? There’s virtually no detail there to bring out, so it’s academic, but I’m interested in hearing the critique.